I was riveted by Costa-Gavras‘ Missing when I first saw it in January 1982. I reciprocated with as much positive ink as I could generate as the editor of The Film Journal and an occasional freelance contributor to Us. Beloved Manhattan publicist Renee Furst, who was handling NYC press for Universal, got me an interview with the renowned Greek-French director. I was also friendly at the time with costar Keith Szarabajka. (We had worked together at the Spring Street Bar & Grill two or three years earlier.) I wound up watching it three or four times that year, and have caught it on video…oh, a couple of times since. But never in high-def. That chasing-the-white-horse moment is burned in my brain.
Now that Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington‘s Equalizer 2 has earned a solid CinemaScore A and landed in first place with an estimated $35.8 million (which slightly tops the $34.1 million opening for the original Equalizer four years ago), the Hollywood Elsewhere community is free to assess the cinematic value. How right or wrong was I in calling EQ2 “much, much better than Fuqua’s 2014 original…this time I actually felt satisfied and marginally impressed…this time I said to myself, ‘I like this guy a little more, and I like that Fuqua has actually made a better-than-half-decent programmer for a change.'”
I just want to say that Ryan Reynolds’ decision to talk about Deadpool’s pansexuality during yesterday’s Comic-Con panel is exactly the kind of inclusive, open-hearted approach to the superhero realm that we all need. I can’t honestly say that I’m waiting with bated breath for the first Deadpool-does-it-with-a-cute-guy scene, but Reynolds has possibly opened the door to all kinds of same-sex couplings within the Marvel and D.C. realm. Remember how Joel Schumacher fiddled with notions of a gay-friendly Batman 21 years ago in Batman and Robin? That didn’t lead anywhere, but now we’re talking about all kinds of possibilities. Which other Marvel superhero characters will open themselves to pansexual expressions? Will the D.C. fraternity follow suit? The sky’s the limit now, and the general superhero fraternity owes Reynolds a debt of gratitude.
If you’re a regular follower you know all about the iCloud sign-in blockage problem on my new iPhone 8 Plus, which I bought two and half weeks ago after my previous phone was stolen. (Here’s my latest report, filed on 7.17.) Five or six days ago I wrote a famous, well-connected hotshot director to see if he knows any powerful higher-ups in the Apple corporation. If so I was hoping he might ask this person to focus on my situation for five minutes and order some senior Apple iCloud technician to fix things once and for all, and no crapping around.
Mr. Hotshot doesn’t know Tim Cook or anyone in that realm, but he did turn me on to a smart guy named Michael Newman, who runs a company called Omegapoint-it.com. I called Newman right away. I’m not out of the woods yet, but Newman has been a godsend — a steady and responsible fellow in every imaginable way, and a shrewd and proactive analyst and problem-solver extraordinaire.
Mike and a colleague visited my West Hollywood abode yesterday morning to try and use an old iMac (which I purchased in 2009) to try and sidestep or outsmart an Apple passcode problem that has prevented me from accessing my iCloud info. This approach didn’t quite work as hoped, but Mike is still working the angles.
At his advice the stolen iPhone 6s Plus has been blacklisted (i.e., deactivated) through AT&T, and now it’s a matter of informing Apple iCloud technicians that this stolen phone is no longer a working device, much less a valid or trusted one.
Once this new reality is recognized by the Apple Empire, the Apple security passcode lockout problem (basically caused by Apple’s six-digit, second-step security code being continually if nonsensically sent to the thief who stole the iPhone on 7.5) will most likely disappear. Or so Mike believes. Who am I to doubt his optimism? He said yesterday that he thinks the problem will be eradicated before the end of the coming business week. Maybe.
I shouldn’t count my chickens before they’re hatched, but I certainly owe Mike and especially Mr. Hotshot a huge debt of gratitude. If this director hadn’t responded to my email and discussed the ins and outs and recommended Mike’s assistance, I would be in the same deep hole I’ve been stuck in for the last two and a half weeks. In my book Mr. Hotshot has racked up good karma points that will last him for at least the next couple of decades.
The career of M. Night Shyamalan has gone through two phases. First was the unnerving, heir-to-Hitchcock, nine-year run that began with 1999’s The Sixth Sense and ended with ’08’s The Happening, and which also included Unbreakable (’00), Signs (’02 — arguably his best), The Village (’04) and Lady in the Water (’06).
Then came a less exacting, somewhat more desperate phase in which he started pandering to genre-friendly popcorn audiences rather than make films with his own unique stamp. Like everyone else I had issues with M. Night’s phase #1 films, but at least they seemed to come from a place inside his own creative soul, which is more than you can say for his phase #2 output.
Shyamalan has cranked out five phase #2 films over the last eight years, including his upcoming Glass (Universal, 1.18.19). The Last Airbender (’10) was a critical disaster; ditto After Earth (’13) with Will Smith and his son Jaden. I didn’t even pay attention to The Visit (’15), a found-footage thing. Nor did I catch Split (’16), a sequel to Unbreakable in which James McAvoy played a psychotic superhuman beast named Kevin Wendell Crumb.
Now comes Glass, another Unbreakable flick (third in a trilogy) with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson reprising their David Dunn and Mr. Glass roles, and joined by the persistent McAvoy plus Anya-Taylor Joy (victim) and Sarah Paulson (psychiatrist).
I know it’s hard to stand alone and make films with your own specific flavor and worldview, and that everyone has to adjust to changing tastes and currents and, you know, get along with moronic studio execs. But I yearn for the days when “directed by M. Night Shyamalan” meant “directed by an eerie auteur who for better or worse makes his own kind of movie, and who brings a certain signature and personality to the table.”
We’re living in a slow-motion Roland Emmerich movie about nature’s wrath. At least 11 wildfires are raging inside the Arctic Circle as the hot, dry summer turns an abnormally wide area of Europe into a tinderbox. Vietnamese farmers are migrating out of the Mekong Delta due to rising sea levels caused by climate change. Things are tough all over, and even the climate-change deniers understand deep down that extreme weather (which opens the door to economic hardship and occasional devastation) is becoming the norm.
I believe that the primal selfishness that has always fueled wealthy conservatives (us before them, occupy the high ground, defend our enclaves from angry multicultural hordes) is getting worse and worse. Righties might challenge or dismiss climate-change science in public, but deep down they’re acting as if a worldwide apocalypse is right around the corner. They seem to believe that social constraints are weakening and that a sense of chaotic desperation will gradually worsen among the have-not classes, and that the safest approach right now is to stockpile as much wealth as possible, enforce governmental regulations that weaken the middle and lower classes, reduce compassion and decency, build higher walls and hire more security consultants.
The widely respected L.A.-based food critic Jonathan Gold passed yesterday from pancreatic cancer. He was only 57. I never met Gold, but felt as if I half-knew him through Laura Gabbert‘s City of Gold, a 2016 doc that I didn’t catch until it hit cable/streaming. And I certainly felt a kinship with Gold through his writing, which was always finely phrased, concise, aromatic and delicious.
Gold wrote about the “glorious mosaic” of L.A. cuisine, occasionally focusing on bucks-up, tourist-trade establishments but mostly on choice, small-time restaurants, food stands and food trucks serving less-than-glamorous neighborhoods. Quality was where he found it. But Gold was first and foremost a man of the world, an Anthony Bourdain-level gourmand and humanist who found wonder and joy in great dishes, and you felt that in every observation and side comment.
Boston Globe‘s Devra First: “Gold expanded our possibilities and introduced us to one another through food. He changed our ideas about what restaurant criticism is and should be, about what good food is and why. Although he wrote about L.A., his perspective reaches far beyond that city.
“Perhaps the most tangible difference he made was in the lives of the people he wrote about — immigrants cooking the dishes of their homeland, making ends meet until Gold came along and changed their fortunes. In City of Gold they talk about how his review completely rearranged things, how they can now afford to send their children to school. They also say that they didn’t fully understand what they were doing until they saw it reflected back at them through Gold’s words.
“As I wrote in a review of the movie, ‘He is the anti-Anton Ego, and the anti-Donald Trump — a distiller who writes from a place of love and generosity, a celebrator of the best kind of immigrant story.’ With the death of Anthony Bourdain last month, the food world has lost two of its great humanists.'”