Yesterday Indiewire‘s Kate Erbland devoted one of her “Girl Talk” columns to a piece about the retired-until-further-notice Cameron Diaz. It was basically a career-summary piece along the lines of what I wrote on 3.15. What blows my mind is that Erbland (a) considers Roger Kumble‘s The Sweetest Thing to be one of Diaz’s most engaging films, despite being one of the most inane piece-of-shit comedies I ever walked out on with a 26% Rotten Tomatoes rating, and (b) she completely ignored what I regard as her best film, Curtis Hanson‘s In Her Shoes, in which she gave her career-best performance. Erbland obviously doesn’t have to agree with me, but she didn’t even mention the Hanson, which has an RT rating of 75%.
Last night Tatyana and I dropped by Angelini Osteria (7313 Beverly Blvd., just west of Poinsettia). No reservation but they sat us immediately at the rear counter. The food, as always, was perfect. Sitting right next to us was Lena Waithe, 33 year-old co-writer and actor in Netflix’s Master Of None, the creative force behind Showtime’s The Chi, a costar in Steven Spielberg‘s Ready Player One, and currently on the cover of Vanity Fair. (Here’s Jacqueline Woodson‘s cover story.) Waithe — friendly in a no-big-deal way — was eating with her fiance, Alana Mayo. Sitting behind us was producer Steve Golin (The Revenant, Spotlight), whom I last ran into at the 2015 Middleburgh Film Festival.
Waithe and Mayo were sitting at the right side of the rear counter; Tatyana and I were seated to the left.
I’m way late on this, I realize, but the blame for the 3.18 death of Stephon Clark is squarely on the two Sacramento cops who fired 20 shots at the poor guy. Clark was hit with eight slugs, six in the back. Once again, a city howls in rage over a police force that seems all too willing to shoot to kill when there’s a black suspect who seems to be carrying something. Clearly a terrible, tragic situation. And it seems to keep happening.
That said, can I ask a typical-white-guy question? If you look at the video Clark is obviously acting like a guy who doesn’t want to be apprehended, and so he’s running away and hopping over a fence and scampering around. Why is he running? We all know that your average big-city cop is more than willing to shoot first and ask questions later, so why would a young black male try to outrun the law when the cops are near with guns drawn? Because he’s thinks he’s Jason Bourne and he can somehow get away, right? But we all know how these situations have often turned out. It’s horrible and malicious, but that’s how cops are so where’s the sense in running for it? I would drop to my knees and put my hands behind my head…period. No cell phone, no TV remote, no nothin’.
Posted on 8.14.14, during the Ferguson riots: “Leaving aside the present ugliness, no one should misunderstand a simple fact about cops, which is that they deal with the worst aspects of human nature 24/7 and that the only way to deal with them when they’re angry and barking some kind of order is to chill and obey. Don’t run or argue or flip the bird or jump a fence. Just give in and mildly submit and that’ll be the end of it. The key is to make them feel placated so they’ll move on. You will always make it worse if you run or give them any kind of shit. Some people can’t seem to understand this.”
A guy answered me as follows: “In my opinion, situations like this call for us to be advocates and allies to marginalized people. To listen and empathize, not to tell them what they ought to do, let alone tell them something that they likely already know.
The great Dominic Eardley and I have been futzing around with the flavor and ornamention of the new HE:(plus) design. A friend urged me to make HE:(plus) look different and distinct from HE classic. So I decided to substitute the Hollywood hills backdrop for one of Paris…Hollywood Elsewhere, right? And then stealing Francis Bacon’s occasional use of arrows in some of his paintings, except make the arrows red and pointy and very, very narrow. I also decided to change the content area background from medium gray to olive drab, and the background area from dark gray to mineshaft black.
The other HE:(plus) columns besides my stuff (Ruimy With A View, Il Foro Romano, Miserable Wanderer, etc.) will line up below. The individual logos for each column are being designed as we speak by HE’s own Mark Frenden. This is not the end-all and be-all of HE:(plus) design, of course, but a beginning. If anyone has any suggestions or improvements, please share. Again, the basic layout so far.
In lieu of Wendy, a revisiting of my 2012 Sundance impressions of Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts of The Southern Wild (“Rank, Robust, Ecstatic“), posted almost six years ago:
The passionately praised Beasts of the Southern Wild, which I finally saw last night at Park City’s MARC, is everything its admirers have said it is. It’s a poetic, organic, at times ecstatic capturing of a hallucinatory Louisiana neverland called the Bathtub, down in the delta lowlands and swarming with all manner of life and aromas, and a community of scrappy, hand-to-mouth fringe-dwellers, hunters, jungle-tribe survivors, animal-eaters and relentless alcohol-guzzlers who live there.
It’s something to sink into and take a bath in on any number of dream-like, atmospheric levels, and a film you can smell and taste and feel like few others I can think of.
Directed and co-written by Benh Zeitlin, Beasts is much more of a naturalistic object d’art than a narrative-driven drama, at least as most of us define that term. The emphasis is on sensual naturalism-wallowing — lush, grassy, muddy, oozy, leafy, stinky, primeval, non-hygenic, slithery, watery, ants up your ass — with a few story shards linked together like paper clips.
The narrative, as such, focuses on six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) and her father Wink (Dwight Henry) and a third-act search for Hushpuppy’s mother.
Wallis is a hugely appealing young actress — beautiful, spirited, wide-eyed — and she pretty much carries the human-soul portions of the film. But Henry’s dad, who cares for Hushpuppy in his own callous and bullying way, is a brute and a drunk and mostly a drag to be around, and after the fifth or sixth scene in which he’s raging and yelling and guzzling booze, there’s a voice inside that starts saying “I don’t know how much more of this asshole I can take.”
Here comes the part of the review that the keepers of the precious Sundance flame are going to dislike. If you apply the classic Jim Hoberman “brief vacations” concept of a great film not only being a kind of “sacred text” but constituting a realm that a viewer would be happy to literally take up residence within, Beasts of the Southern Wild does not, for me, pass the test.
Roughly two years after the big Sundance debut of Beasts of the Southern Wild, or in December 2013, I wrote director-writer Benh Zeitlin about what I’d heard was his next project. It was called Wendy, I’d been told by a friend, and was thought to be some kind of rural-American, loose-shoe reimagining of the Peter Pan saga. Or something in that vein. So I wrote Zeitlin and asked what up.
“I’m looking to verify that your followup to Beasts of the Southern Wild will be some kind of variation on the Peter Pan legend, called Wendy,” I said. “Which will basically be the classic story told from Wendy’s point of view. A similar kind of organically magical other-world vibe that you delivered in Beasts, I gather, but within a more familiar structure.”
In his emailed reply, Zeitlin said what I’d been hearing was almost 100% wrong, and that the vision of the film had changed every which way. He asked me to keep it zipped until he knew what it finally would be and was ready to share. I said fine and that was that.
Wendy director-writer Benh Zeitlin.
4 1/3 years have passed since that exchange, and Zeitlin’s Wendy is finally done, having shot last year in Montserrat and Antigua, and currently in post. And ready to roll out in the fall, I’m presuming, under Fox Searchlight. Or maybe not. I wrote Zeitlin earlier today to ask how thing’s are going…silencio.
Wendy‘s IMDB page offers the following synopsis: “A young girl is taken to a destructive ecosystem where she befriends a young boy and discovers a mystical pollen that allows them to break the relationship between aging and time.” That sounds kinda Peter Pan-ny, no?
Wendy is played by the very young Tommie Lynn Milazzo, who may be the new Quvenzhane Wallis mixed with a slightly younger sister of The Florida Project‘s Brooklyn Prince. Shay Walker plays Angela Darling, the IMDB says. Darling, of course, was the last name of the London family that Peter Pan visited in the original 1906 J.M. Barrie novel, “Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.”
I have it in my mind that Zeitlin is temperamentally the new Terrence Malick, and that he likes to take his time in the editing room. I’m figuring nonetheless that Wendy will probably screen in Venice, Telluride and/or Toronto.
I’m not saying that Jim McBride and L.M. Kit Carson‘s Breathless (’83) is the equal of the original 1960 Jean Luc Godard film, which was called A bout de souffle in France. Or even an above-average remake. But it has a better ending — you have to at least give it that. Godard’s film, set in Paris, is about an American girl (Jean Seberg) and a low-rent French hustler (Jean Paul Belmondo). The remake, set mostly in Los Angeles, is about the adventures of a French girl (Valerie Kaprisky) and an American no-goodnik and Jerry Lee Lewis worshipper (Richard Gere).
I’m not sold on Coralie Fargeat‘s Revenge (Neon/Shudder, 5.11). The trailer suggests a piece of bloody grindhouse exploitation by way of timely feminist pushback. Honestly? I’d rather watch Tony Scott‘s Revenge (’90), even though it wasn’t all that great.
Warner Bros. attempted to develop Jim Harrison‘s original novella, published in ’79 along with two others under the title “Legends of the Fall”, for several years. It finally got made by producer Ray Stark with Kevin Costner starring and exec producing. It finished shooting in late ’88, opened in February ’90.
Most critics panned it. What was the problem? The affair that Costner has with Madeleine Stowe seems selfish and kind of stupid, especially following a scene in which Stowe’s gangster husband, played by Anthony Quinn, hints to Costner that he knows what’s going on and that it might be better to hightail it while the hightailing is good. Costner ignores the offer, and all kinds of bad stuff results.
But it’s still a handsome film, and it has that south-of-the-border, candle-lighted feeling of class and visual pizazz that Scott was always good at.
This shot of The Age of Innocence costars Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day Lewis was probably taken during some Los Angeles publicity gathering. Martin Scorsese‘s much-admired film opened on 9.17.93. (I’m figuring the photo of L.A. Dodgers’ manager Tommy Lasorda indicates a Los Angeles establishment.) If I’m correct Pfeiffer was 35 and 1/2 at the time; Lewis was a year older. They both look so young, so glowing. Especially Lewis compared to that shaved-head, Buddhist retreat appearance he had during publicity for Phantom Thread.
You’ll always notice two things at any commercial screening: (1) Significant numbers of people entering right at the end of the trailers and just as the feature is beginning, as if they’ve been standing around outside (texting, chatting) and waiting for the last possible moment to take their seats, and (2) a stream of viewers constantly leaving and re-entering starting around the 45-minute mark. Leaving and re-entering, leaving and re-entering, leaving and re-entering.
I was sitting in the front (handicapped) row during yesterday’s Ready Player One showing at the Grove, and that trance-like state we all want to submit to was being constantly shattered by these antsy little three-year-olds charging across my sight lines…running out, coming back in…running out, coming back…running out, coming back in. I said “three year-olds” because these guys are most likely hitting the bathroom, and toddlers are the only ones who can’t hold it for the length of a film.
Has anyone ever heard of an old-fashioned idea called “hitting the head before the movie starts so you don’t have to leave during Act Two or Act Three”? Hollywood Elsewhere always takes care of business in this fashion. I almost never take a bathroom break. I don’t want to risk missing anything important.
My theory is that these jerks are coming in with their 48-ounce soft drink containers and pouring it all down within the first 20 to 30 minutes, and so their bladders are bursting 30 minutes later. They try to hold it and finally give up. If I bring a drink into the theatre it’s always the smallest size, and I never take more than two or three sips, and half the time it’s from a water bottle.
A couple of months ago I would have been too terrified by the Daughters of Maximilien Robespierre to have posted this sensible-sounding message by University of Toronto political science major Josephine Mathias. But last weekend’s decision by AMPAS to dismiss an improper touching charge due to lack of credibility has opened the door.
Having absentmindedly missed last Monday’s all-media at the Chinese, I paid $17 yesterday afternoon to see Steven Spielberg‘s Ready Player One. I came to scoff but came away placated, and even mildly enthralled by certain portions. I would have loved to have descended into a hate pit with this thing but I can’t. At worst I felt pummelled and trampled by the VR realm, but much of the time I was going “ehh, this isn’t too bad.” It really isn’t. Much of it is an almost blinding visual knockout. For what it is, you could do a lot worse than Ready Player One. Strange as this sounds there were times when I actually enjoyed the ride.
Do I have to explain everything? Naah, but it’s basically a VR treasure-hunt movie, blah blah. Find three keys inside the OASIS, which is where everyone youngish seems to “reside” given the exceptionally bleak dystopian atmosphere that permeates “the real world.” OASIS was created years ago by late billionaire James Halliday (Mark Rylance), blah blah. The ultimate find is a glowing golden egg, blah blah, along with piles of Halliday’s money and control of OASIS, etc.
The “High Five” heroes are Tye Sheridan‘s Wade Watts (and his avatar “Parzival”) and Olivia Cooke‘s Samantha Cook (i.e., “Art3mis”), plus three others (Lena Waithe as Helen Harris/Aech, Philip Zhao as Sho, Win Morisaki as Daito). The corporate baddie-waddie is played by Ben Mendelson, and it says something about Ready Player One that I wasn’t irritated by the guy.
I partially agree with Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman that Spielberg’s “dizzyingly propulsive virtual-reality fanboy geek-out” is “an accomplished and intermittently hypnotic movie although you may feel more occupied than invested.” And yet I began to feel fully invested somewhere around the 90-minute mark, or during the final 40 or 45. And like everyone else I especially loved the VR visit to The Shining‘s Overlook Hotel, although I was somewhat disappointed that Jack Nicholson doesn’t appear.
I can’t believe I’m giving a pass to two Spielberg films in a row (this and The Post) and only four months apart. Who am I if not a confirmed “beardo” disser? To paraphrase Dennis Hopper in The American Friend, “I know less and less about who I am. Or who anyone else is.”