When I awoke yesterday morning the iPhone 8 Plus battery was just about drained, and it wouldn’t activate. It was plugged into a smallish Jackery battery, but the charging cord was one of those shitty ones they sell at gas stations. The battery icon showed that the phone was all but drained with just a little bit of red of the left side, and it wouldn’t power up.
So I tried to fix things with the assistance of a friendly but none-too-bright Apple tech assistance person. I knew she wasn’t that brilliant when she said she’d never heard of Jackery external batteries, and then was asking me over and over when was the last time I’d charged the phone straight from a wall socket, blah blah. “Never”, I said.
Then I talked to a smarter Apple person, and his advice was to submit the phone to a Genius Bar session at the Grove Apple store. He got me a 4:30 pm appointment. Thanks.
Four or five hours later I was at the store and showing the phone (still plugged into the Jackery battery with that shitty white cord) to a Genius Bar guy. He was gay and 40ish (am I allowed to describe a person this way?) and something about his speech and manner told me “be careful…he’s not Albert Einstein.” (The best Genius Bar techs are always mercurial types in their 20s and 30s.)
Gay Genius Guy tried this and that in the back room, and came back with an unusual diagnosis. The phone wasn’t turning on because a badly loaded app was keeping the mechanism from going through the necessary steps.
“A bad app? An app that hasn’t loaded correctly?” I said, giving him the side-eye. “I’ve been grappling with iPhones for 12 years now, and I’ve never once heard of problematic software preventing a phone for tuning on.” GGG said there’s always a first time for anything.
“But it’s clearly seems to be a battery issue,” I argued. “How do you know that an app is causing this?”
We went back and forth. The only safe and comprehensive solution, he maintained, was to wipe the phone of all data and reload it through iTunes, which would have been a huge pain in the ass and eaten up a lot of time. I guess I was frowning and pouting a bit, but I really didn’t like this guy or his diagnosis.
The initial idea for this morning’s Oscar Poker chat with Jordan Ruimy was to focus only on The Irishman. But I insisted on first discussing the Joker situation. There’s a shot near the very end of Todd Phillips‘ film, a street-riot sequence, an atmosphere of complete social breakdown and chaos and rage…if the film had ended with this shot Joker wouldn’t that much more startling. It’s nonetheless a totally nutso thing, and all but completely unmitigated. The nihilist energy is so pure, so raw. I’m honestly wondering how the Academy fuddy-duds will process this film. When last weekend’s screening ended there were a couple of people saying, “This is not going to sit well with some people.” Again, the mp3
Two weeks ago I ran a recollection from a producer friend about a young Australian guy who met a few Los Angeles agents on the strength of his having allegedly shot the plastic bag sequence in American Beauty. The contention or belief was that director Sam Mendes hadn’t shot the plastic-bag sequence — this young guy had.
Producer friend clarifies: “I just saw [an] interview with Mendes about the plastic bag film, and it seems pretty clear Mendes directed it. So what was that other guy doing meeting people and saying he directed it? I recall that the Australian guy sent his short film to the production looking for a job. All I can imagine is that he sent a primitive student film and Mendes saw it (or was told about it) and decided to do his own inspired professional version.
“A pretty prominent Australian agent set up the student director’s meeting, and it was a senior manager from Anonymous Content that called me about his own scheduled meeting. The student director obviously had some credibility behind him. But it’s clear the footage in the feature is Mendes, very clear, even if the concept was the student’s. I also heard that the student director signed with an agent!”
I was called “nuts” for thinking about driving to Tijuana later this month to see Woody Allen‘s A Rainy Day in New York. Well, how about Tatyana and I motoring down to Mexico to see Roman Polanski‘s An Officer and a Spy?
The IMDB reports that Polanski’s alleged masterwork, which won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival but has no U.S. distributor because the well-meaning #MeToo zealots won’t allow it because of Polanski’s criminal history, is opening today in Mexico (9.30).
My plan was to do that awful four-hour drive (405 and 5 south and across the backed-up border) and catch it at a theatre this weekend. But I can find no trace of any theatre booking. I’ve done searches with different search terms…nothing. Could it be that Polanski’s film is only playing in Mexico’s more cultured cities — Mexico City, Guadalajara, etc.? Maybe, but I still can’t find it.
So either the IMDB is completely mistaken (which is possible) or…
I asked some friends (journalists, filmmakers, an exhibitor)…zip. I’ve written a guy with Playtime, which is handling worldwide sales in all media. If I could just find the name of the Mexican distributor of An Officer and a Spy, I could call and ask what’s up.
Wayne Fitzgerald, the highly regarded main-title designer who peaked between the ’50s and ’90s, has passed at age 89. A moment of silence is warranted. In HE’s estimation Fitzgerald’s best work, hands down, was the title sequence for Warren Beatty and Arthur Penn‘s Bonnie and Clyde (’67) — initially no music, quick slide-projector cuts of 1930s Brownie shapshots, and then period music gradually being heard. The second best was the title sequence for Roman Polanski‘s Chinatown (’74).
When I first saw it 39 years ago, I immediately decided that John Irvin‘s The Dogs of War was a great (if not the greatest) mercenary war flick, and my opinion hasn’t changed since.
But until today, I hadn’t realized (or paid sufficient attention to the fact) that there’s a 118-minute international cut along with the 104-minute version that I saw way back when. This is why I’ve bought the Eureka Entertainment Bluray (streeting on 10.14), which has both versions.
Tough, minimalist performances by Christopher Walken (whose facial features were quite lean and beautiful back then), Tom Berenger, Colin Blakely, Hugh Millais and Paul Freeman.
Based on the same-titled Frederick Forsyth novel; script by Gary DeVore, George Malko and uncredited Michael Cimino. Cinematography by the great Jack Cardiff.
The Dogs of War is streamable via Amazon Prime, but who wants the shorter version?
Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman is basically saying that given the drop-dead awesomeness of The Irishman, Netflix is underserving its culture-gripping potential by giving it a lousy three weeks in theatres before streaming begins.
He’s probably right. Would it have been better if Netflix had worked out a 42-day theatrical arrangement? Yeah, but that’s water under the bridge.
All I can say now is that you cannot fart around when it comes to seeing Martin Scorserse‘s masterpiece at a private screening in October or in a commercial cinema between 11.1 and 11.27. Because you need to see it the right way. No couches, no texting, no kitchen breaks, no feeding the pets, no taking out the garbage. You need to watch it like a monk.
Gleiberman: “Netflix has, in fact, made such a good movie that a vast audience of people — a world of people — are going to want to see it in movie theaters. And if the film’s relatively limited theatrical release starts to feel like a compromise with that desire, it could give a great many people pause: members of the Academy, and filmmakers who are promised the moon if they make their next movie with Netflix. Sure, they’ll get to make the film they want, and that isn’t nothing. But the release of The Irishman is destined to shine a light on the underlying metaphysical question: Is home viewing really the moon?
“The 20th century is officially behind us, but it may not be going out of style nearly as quickly as the executives at Netflix would like it to.”
Every now and then, conventional wisdom comes up short. All along and despite obvious warnings, I’ve been telling myself that Noah Hawley‘s Lucy in the Sky might turn out to be better than the buzz. So post-Toronto, I’ve been waiting to see it. Alas, no invites, presumably because Fox Searchlight is looking to minimize negative reactions. I’ve asked if I could please be allowed to see it sometime between now and opening day (10.4), but let’s not kid ourselves. With pathetic Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic ratings of 20% and 35%, respectively, and with poor Natalie Portman wearing that awful Dorothy Hamill haircut, Lucy in the Sky is all but DOA. I’m sorry.
I don’t know how or why Warner Bros. got behind a film as nutso radical as Todd Phillips, Scott Silver and Joaquin Phoenix‘s Joker (10.4), but this is not corporate product. Make no mistake about the fact that this 122-minute film is propelled by misery, loneliness, alienation, despair, ennui, delusion and general social malevolence and madness. And it doesn’t back off from that.
I’m telling you right now that at least a portion of the Joe and Jane Popcorn crowd might have a problem with Joker. Because it’s not serving up the usual DC Comics oatmeal. At all. And to its credit. It’s an unsettling, challenging thing to sit through, but in a good way. This was my judgment, at least, and that of some guys I was speaking to at the after-party.
But I heard some other reactions on the way out of last night’s Chinese screening. “Some are going to like it, and some are not going to like it,” a woman journalist said. Another guy said negative reactions are going to dominate. (Which I doubt.) It was my post-screening judgment, if you wanna know, that many people didn’t even know what they’d just seen. Or didn’t care to know. Some were just saying “it’s fine…it’s going to make a lot of money,” blah blah. Well, yeah, but Joker is about a lot more than just that…c’mon.
Joker is entirely about the sad, imaginary and not-so-imaginary saga of Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), a mentally ill guy who’s been abused and kicked around, who lives in a ratty urban hell hole circa 1981, who works as a street clown, who imagines that he has a nice girlfriend (Zazie Beetz) who lives in the building but on some level not really, who goes from bad to worse and then much worse, from meds to no meds, and who finally cracks, and then really cracks by killing some people and then (in his head but to some extent actually) ignites anarchy and revolution.
This is a startling serving of truly inflammatory nihilist cinema. It’s way out there. Brand-wise, Joker represents the launch of DC Black, a series of DC-based standalone films. Uh-huh, whatever. “A film for our times!” a journalist pally said last night.
How crazy-good is Phoenix? As good as this sort of thing gets. An obvious Best Actor nomination, and perhaps even a win. Maybe.
Honestly? I think Phoenix is half playing Arthur and half just wigging out on his own wavelength. I think he’s portraying Arthur in the same way that Max Schreck “played” the vampire Count Orlok in F.W. Murnau‘s Nosferatu. Or more precisely the way Willem Dafoe portrayed Schreck portraying Orlok in Shadow of the Vampire.
Last night I called Joker a deranged art film in the tradition of Un Chien Andalou or L’Age d’Or — like some perverse creation from a latter-day Bunuel-Dali, except with stronger doses of hate and rage and all-around dystopian chaos. The world minus any semblance of civility or love or order…it’s about despising and hating the odious one-percenters…the rank and odious social order of the snooty swells. Fuck ’em!
Joker is a literal manifestation of insanity. Which is to say it delivers a searing portrait of a loose-screw type without judging or pulling back into some conventional corner in Act Three. Joker commits to Arthur — he’s the only guy you have to relate to, and I have to admit that when Arthur snaps on the subway after being taunted and beaten I wasn’t feeling all that horrified. On a certain level I was feeling a Death Wish-like surge of excitement and approval. But Joker doesn’t end there. Once the downward spiral begins, there’s no stopping it.
I don’t know where Arthur Fleck’s deranged fantasies begin or end, but this is a film about the demon seed…a film not just about crazy Arthur but about mass rage, mass madness. At the end of the day it’s not so much about Arthur going mad but the whole city, the whole world on a rampage. A good portion of which, I realize and accept, is happening inside Arthur’s grieving and miserable head. But not completely.
Please understand that Arthur’s revolution isn’t all imaginary, and that after a while it’s as real as anything else. Damn the odious social order! Everyone in authority is hateful and vile and deserving of death and destruction or a beat-down…at some point Arthur’s fantasy aspect goes out the window along with his meds. Pure anarchy.