“The Democratic Party wins when it nominates young, charismatic leaders who are able to convince people outside the party’s base that Democratic values are their own. It is a model that drove Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and John F. Kennedy to the presidency. And it could be the model that puts Pete Buttigieg there.
“As the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he’s not the most experienced candidate running. And while he would probably be the most left-wing nominee since at least Walter Mondale, he is hardly the leftmost candidate in this primary, and he’s worked hard to differentiate himself from the maximalist platforms of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.”
Somewhere in heaven the ghost of Jack London is repeatedly slamming his fist into a refrigerator and screaming “you worthless motherfuckers…I want to come down to earth, surreptitiously occupy the body of somebody like Dwayne Johnson and pound your worthless asses into mush!”
The recipients would be those principally responsible for The Call of the Wild (20th Century Studios, 2.21) — director Chris Sanders, producer Erwin Stoff, screenwriter Michael Green and costar Harrison Ford, who plays Alaskan lonely guy and struggling alcoholic John Thornton (whom Clark Gable portrayed in William Wellman’s 1935 version).
If we lived in a fair and just universe London’s wish would be granted by the same heavenly manager who allowed Billy Bigelow to return to earth in order to help his unhappy daughter. For The Call of the Wild is swill — a live-action CG cartoon aimed at idiots, kids, families and simpletons of all ages.
Does anyone remember Jean Jacques Annaud‘s The Bear (’88)? A naturalistic coming-of-age survival saga starring real bears and two or three supporting humans? It too was aimed at the family trade and but didn’t pander or dumb itself down. By any yardstick The Bear was intelligent, moving, believable, rewarding. And all the animals were real! I loved it when I caught an all-media screening 32 years ago, and I’m actually planning on seeing it again this week. Mainly because a good film is a good film and it’s been too long. But also because The Bear was everything that The Call of The Wild isn’t, and I want to flush the latter out of my system.
God, I hate movies about animals with great big hearts and loads of loyalty and courage, but at the same time don’t respect the natural way of things…films that insist on serving fast food and snow cones instead of wholesome Greek yogurt and steamed green beans or, you know, stuff worth eating.
This is a family flick with, I’ll admit, a fair amount of synthetic warmth and personality, and I realize that it might “get” some people if their standards are low enough. But it’s almost entirely about fake bullshit, fake bullshit and — just to break up the monotony — fake bullshit. It’s primitive candy corn — a confection that worships trite formulaic contrivances, and in fact smears them all over your face like street mud. Another way of putting it is that The Call of the Wild that has so little respect for you, the viewer, and is so determined to treat you like a Disneyland-attending moron that it knocks you down like a big playful dog, raises its hind leg and pisses right into your face.
I hate movies like this, I hate the generic family-flick mindset and I hate Sanders, who’s known for co-writing and directing Disney’s Lilo & Stitch (’02) and DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon (’10).
I saw Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne‘s Young Ahmed (Kino Lorber, 2.21 in NYC, 3.6 in LA) during last May’s Cannes Film Festival. I called it an “an 84-minute waiting-game movie about a young Islamic psychopath and would-be Jihadist (Idir Ben Addi) planning to murder his female teacher (Myriem Akheddiou) out of blind adherence to Islamic derangement syndrome.”
There’s only one reason to introduce a character with strong Islamic beliefs — i.e., to start the clock ticking on whether or not this character will commit some act of ghastly terror. This is precisely what the Dardennes have done with YoungAhmed, which should probably be re-titled YoungIslamicAsshole and subtitled Just For Laughs, How About Killing YourselfWithoutTakingAnyInnocentVictimsWithYou?
Which is why it’s a “waiting game” film because all you can think about is “when or who is this kid going to kill, or will somebody kill him before he strikes?”
Except YoungAhmed ends rather profoundly. The last couple of minutes are so good, in fact, that I wound up forgiving the first 80 or so. I should also say that it ends more compassionately than would be warranted in real life.
Kino Lorber is distributing Young Ahmed with an absolute minimum of fanfare. No screenings have been scheduled, or at least none that anyone knows of. At least one major critic hasn’t even been sent a streaming link, which suggests that links are scarce all around. This morning I asked Kino’s David Ninh if he was sending links to critics — he passed the request along to Ryan Werner.
Why so little effort for a film that won the 2019 Cannes Film Festival’s Best Director award, and which almost won the Palme d’Or (at least according to World of Reel‘s Jordan Ruimy, who reported on 5.18 that a trusted Cannes source had told him that Young Ahmed might well have been handed the grand prize if Parasite hadn’t come along)?
One presumes that Kino Lorber simply can’t afford the promotional expense. There’s also the fact that outside of the loyal cineastes who frequent The Quad and West L.A.’s Royal, “almost won the Palme d’Or” doesn’t cut much ice. Even films that have actually won the Palme d’Or aren’t paid that much attention to.
I respected Young Ahmed and, as always, found myself admiring the pared-down, unfancified style of the Dardennes. Then again the 53% Rotten Tomatoes score isn’t exactly a rousing number. Husband: “Hey, what about this flick about a young Islamic lunatic who wants to knife his teacher to death because her existence is an affront to Allah and the Koran?” Wife: “Maybe not.”
Subject-wise most human beings on the planet earth aren’t exactly inclined to feel compassion for a young homicidal monster. I don’t like admitting to myself that teenage Islamic fanatics who would murder their teachers need to be imprisoned or better yet exterminated like termites, but it’s how I basically feel.
Either way it’s odd to contemplate the enormous gulf between the Cannes aura that a certain film could generate (i.e., major aesthetic import, thundering cinematic importance) and an all but complete lack of interest when such a film (especially when directed by the dutiful, highly efficient but overly low-key Dardennes brothers) opens stateside.
Not a bird will stir in the trees of Manhattan when this film opens four days hence; ditto the trees of West L.A. next month.
Has anyone seen Jeff Nichols‘ Midnight Special, which opened a little less than four years ago? Of those who saw it, does anyone remember much about it? You wouldn’t be expected to as it was fairly negligible. (A good 20% if not 30% of the RT positive notices were born of knee-jerk critical deference to Nichols, who’s one of the good guys whom everyone is required to like.) And it was a commercial bust, costing $18 million but earning only $6.7 million.
I called it “a grim, grubby paranoid road-chase thing — a kind of shitkicker film about peeling rubber and hiding out in shitty motels and dodging the authorities, mixed in with doses of Starman, E.T. and Close Encounters. For my money it felt like too much work for too little payoff. When it ended I was muttering to myself, ‘That’s it?’ As I was driving back over the hill I was saying to myself, ‘You can’t hit a homer every time at bat.'”
Until last night I had no reasonable expectation of ever thinking about Midnight Special again. But then, out of the blue, Tomato-approved critic Monica Castillo tweeted that Nichols’ film was “still great.” To which I responded, “Uhm, why would you call it ‘great’? It obviously isn’t.” Castillo replied, “Because I thought it was great. We can agree to disagree on this movie and many others.” What could anyone say to that except “okay, I guess, whatever”?
But within seconds TheWrap‘s Alonso Duralde pounced on me for mansplaining and sounding like an asshat. Not for disagreeing with Castillo’s opinion but for disagreeing with Castillo. Because on Twitter, the gentlemanly thing is to never sharply disagree with a Latina critic, and to in fact treat all gilded-cage critics with kid gloves. Which of course is a form of chivalrous chauvinism and protective paternalism.
If I’d disagreed with, say, Emiliano Castillo of the San Jose Mercury News, Duralde wouldn’t have said boo and he knows it.
Critic pally: “I’m increasingly excited by the prospect of a Mike Bloomberg candidacy. Because my basic view is that I don’t think any of the others can win. Like, I think they have zero fucking chance. Your writing on Bernie Sanders has been spot-on — I agree with every word. And Typewriter Joe…forget about it. He seems ready for assisted living, and I’m so glad he now appears to be going down in flames. Who does that leave? It leaves BB.”
This isn’t about the movies — it’s about the unfortunate dominance of moronic, zero-taste moviegoers.
I guess in hindsight it wasn’t such a good idea to cast Will Ferrell as the cowardly run-for-cover dad. Your basic popcorn idiot wants to laugh when he/she pays to see a Ferrell film, and audiences could tell from the trailer that this wasn’t his usual-usual. I guess nobody wanted to see a dramedy about marital discord and guilt-tripping on a St. Valentine’s Day weekend. Or…wait, perhaps Joe and Jane Popcorn decided that they agreed with the Hollywood Elsewhere view that the real fault lay with Julia Louis Dreyfus and their two inert pudgeball sons, because they just sat there as an avalanche approached?
No semi-civilized person has ever served tap water to guests (particularly well-heeled Los Angeles guests) at a dinner table. Ever. But if they did happen to do this…well, I wouldn’t react the way Larry David does in this clip. After tasting it, I would simply return the nearly-filled glass of tap water to its proper position and innocently ask my host if he/she happens to have…oh, a Diet Coke or Ginger Ale or something in that realm. That’s why this bit doesn’t quite work. Because the Elizabeth Perkins character isn’t based upon reality.
And anyone who equates the throwing of a softball or the swinging of a tennis racket to stabbing a dummy with a carving knife isn’t eccentric or whimsical or loopy — that person would be psychotic.
From the early to mid ’60s, director-screenwriter Robert Towne had a passionate, occasionally troubled relationship with dancer-actress Barrie Chase, who was the daughter of Red River screenwriter Borden Chase. In 1966, things came to an end when Chase decided to wed Swedish actor Jan Malmsjo.
Although Warren Beatty obtained a co-writing credit on Shampoo (’75), Towne is the primary author. He worked on it for years. Here’s the final scene between Beatty and Julie Christie (i.e., “George Roundy” and “Jackie Shawn”). It happens on a hilltop somewhere in Beverly Hills.
Christie: “You’re going to kill me…” Beatty: “Honey?” Chrstie: “What are you trying to do?” Beatty: “I want you to marry me. I wanna take care of you. I want you to have a baby with me. Hey, I know I’m a fuck-up but I’ll take care of you. I’ll make you happy — I swear to God I will. (Two or three beats.) What do you think?” Christie: “It’s too late.” Beatty: “Whaddaya mean ‘it’s too late’? We’re not dead yet. That’s the only thing that’s too late.” Christie: “Lester’s left Felicia. I’m going [with him] to Acapulco on a 4 o’clock flight. He’s asked me to marry him.” Beatty: “Oh…honey. (Gently weeping.) Honey, please. Please, honey. I…I don’t trust anybody but you.”
I first began to hate George Lucas 37 years ago, after seeing Return of the Jedi. He had taken what most of us regarded as a great galactic Arthurian saga and ruined it with Ewoks and bonfires and happy songs on the forest planet of Endor. I held onto my hate for decades (when I was writing for Reel,com in ’99 I called him a flannel-shirt-wearing lesbian), but now I love the guy.
Or rather I love John Robert Thompson‘s deepfake Lucas, whom I’ve been following for a while via Collider Videos. His fatalistic cynicism is so pure, so bone-tired, so lethargic, so fuck-it-all. Not to mention his pot belly and sagging breasts.
I would totally pay to see a feature in which deepfake Lucas wise-cracks his way through the development and shooting of the last three Star Wars films, commenting on the goings-on like some kind of sardonic Greek chorus. I’m serious — I would triple-pay to see this. (He could even step in as Adam Driver‘s older-bro confidante during the alleged “thing” with Daisy Ridley.) Because super-loaded deepfake Lucas doesn’t give a shit. At all.
Deepfake Lucas: “Everyone thought that the prequels were bad. Everyone thought those were the lowest-rated. As it turns out, what you don’t reaiize is that The Rise of Skywalker is actually the lowest rated. Hah-hah…sorry, I can’t suppress my laughter. It just feels so good.
“J.J. comes to me, crying…called me up like a little bitch. ‘Oh, George, I need your help.’ I said, ‘Oh, now you need my help? Well, I’m sorry but I don’t make those movies any more.’ Then I called him back and said ‘stop crying, don’t be a little bitch…what’s the problem?’ And he said, “Rian Johnson just totally destroyed [the saga with] this last film and I don’t know how to pick up the pieces.’ And he started hashing things out, and then Kathy Kennedy came along and said ‘well, we’re gonna go this way’, and I said ‘okay, I’m out…I’m out.’ That was the last time I talked to them.”
Michael Bloomberg’s campaign has officially denied published reports that he’s considering asking (good God) Hillary Clinton to be his running mate for the 2020 presidential election — “We are focused on the primary and the debate, not vp speculation.” Even if he had briefly flirted with this idea, I’m sure Bloomberg has completely discharged it by now. If he goes with a woman it would probably be Kamala Harris or Stacey Abrams.