Of all the scores of war movies I’ve seen over the decades, not one has had a scene in which combat troops pass a bottle around before the shooting starts. To punch up their courage. You’d think at least one war film would attempt a scene in this vein, but nope. Martin Sheen drinks in his Saigon hotel room at the beginning of Apocalypse Now but not during the journey upriver. Charlie Sheen and Willem Dafoe get ripped on pot in Platoon, but not just prior to battle.
In ‘04 James Wells, a Marine lieutenant who fought Japanese troops during the battles of Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, was interviewed at Rutgers University, his alma mater, about…well, his whole life but mainly his college and wartime experiences.
A day or two ago Jett found a transcript of the interview. Here’s one of my dad’s recollections. It happened just before his division was about to land on the beaches of Iwo Jima:
I was fairly taken with Stacey Wilson Hunt‘s “To Die For at 25: An Oral History of the Risky Indie-Meets-Studio Triumph“, which posted earlier today.
Gus Van Sant‘s 1995 film, based on the 1990 Pamela Smart husband-murder case, struck most of us as a sardonic suburban drama about careless idiots rather than a head-turning noir comedy. It made you smirk from time to time, but it was never intended to be “amusing.” Unless you’re a misanthrope.
The article sells the idea that To Die For is some kind of masterpiece, but my recollection is that it was more in the realm of good — handsomely shot and edited (it was certainly one of Van Sant’s better looking films) and very dry and matter-of-fact — rather than great. The tone was cool and somewhat dismissive of the none-too-bright characters (Nicole Kidman‘s especially), and the feeling at the end is “jeez, what a bunch of delusionals.” The perpetrators, I mean.
We all admired Kidman’s performance as the robotic, icy-mannered Smart, and particularly the naivete and vulnerability conveyed by 20 year-old Joaquin Pheonix, who played Smart’s teenaged lover, Jimmy Emmett, and the killer of her husband Larry (Matt Dillon).
The two indelible images, for me, are (a) Phoenix’s lovestruck, heartbroken expression while being grilled by the cops about his motive for killing Larry, and (b) the frozen face of Smart, killed by a mafia assassin and carried along by river currents, captured through thin ice.
To Die For premiered in Cannes on 5.28.95, opened in Canada on 9.29.95 and then a week later — 10.6.95 — in the States. It cost $20 million to make but only earned $21.3 million at the end of the day,
I haven’t seen it since the Westwood all-media screening, but I’ll be watching it again tonight. Why haven’t I wanted to re-watch until now? I think I’ve explained that.
Did you know that Matt Mulhern‘s Duane Hopwood is a film that people were talking about 15 years ago? And that it played Sundance ’05, and was positively reviewed by both Roger Ebert and Variety‘s Robert Koehler?
Did you also know that later that year IFC decided against releasing Duane Hopwood in New York City and Los Angeles, focusing instead on Philadelphia, Tucson and Kansas City? And that the film ended up with a total domestic gross of $13,510?
Earlier today Collider‘s Gregory Lawrence wrote that “if you’re going to watch one New England-set character study about an alcoholic father struggling to regain control and cathartically work through his traumas, watch Duane Hopwood, not Manchester by the Sea.”
Two of Lawrence’s reasons for offering this view, that Manchester is “overlong” and “oppressively morose”, are nothing sort of asinine. One suspects that his main reason is because Casey Affleck, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his Lee Chandler performance, is, in Lawrence’s words, “a noted sexual predator.”
I’m not saying Lawrence is a p.c. kumquat, but he kinda sounds like one.
The bottom line is that no amount of icky (not to mention financially settled and apologized for) behavior on Affleck’s part can possibly negate the effect of his performance or Kenneth Lonergan‘s film. And no amount of Collider spin can enhance the reputation of the smudgy, obviously second-tier, all-but-forgotten Duane Hopwood. There was a reason, trust me, why it wasn’t deemed worthy of a NY or LA opening. One look at the below videos (and a single sampling of Judah Friedlander‘s failed-actor character) tells you everything.
Here’s proof that I’ve been keeping tabs on Hollywood balding trends for a good 26 years. (Although I’ve been focused on such matters since my mid teens, which is when I first suspected that my own follicles might one day be in jeopardy.) I sent a snail-mail pitch to Esquire, and they went for it almost right away. I was paid something like $350 or $400. The same year I began writing a weekly Sunday piece for the N.Y. Daily News entertainment section. I also began a stint as a weekly columnist for the L.A. Times Syndicate, which I did for five years (or until ’99).
HE to Rural Bumblefucks, Young Party Animals, Southerners, “Karens”, Mask-Refusing Righties: Thanks, guys!
“We had previously assumed that the spread of COVID-19 would be relatively halted, with social distancing requirements significantly lessened, by late 2020. We have now extended that timeline out to at least mid-2021; the situation remains very fluid, and we do not rule out the possibility that the impact could last even longer.”
“[We expect] no film releases in fiscal year 2020,” and that “domestic theaters [will] be largely closed until mid-2021, in part because we don’t think studios will be interested in releasing their largest movies into a capacity-constrained footprint.”
HE comment: Okay, so every awards-contender is going to be streamed….terrific.
Jordan Ruimy comment (backed up by below graph]: “What I don’t understand is that COVID deaths in the U.S. have gone down by 75% since April, so why all the bloody panic?”
…I don’t hear or see “mask up.” Because I’ve been masking up since early March. What I get is that we live in a country so rock-dumb, yokel-ignorant and arrogantly entitled that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and producer Jane Rosenthal felt that a series of PSAs (“Mask Up, America”) might help the situation. Because unlike every other nation on the planet except Brazil and maybe one or two others, the USA has proved itself a joke at fighting the scourge. The hinterland regions, I mean — Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, rural and rightwing California. People who are too weak and stupid to act responsibly. Celebrity participants in the campaign include director Kathryn Bigelow plus Robert De Niro, Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman, John Leguizamo, Anthony Mackie, Rosie Perez, Ellen Pompeo and Jeffrey Wright.
Within its own ravishing and diseased realm, Vaclav Marhoul‘s The Painted Bird is a certain kind of “great” film — exquisitely made, but utterly hellish to the core in terms of its depiction of the human condition. Which makes it a tough sit.
I saw it last night and holy moley holy fucktard. It’s about a little Jewish kid (Petr Kotlár) trying to survive all on his own in eastern Europe during World War II, and man, does he suffer the drawn-out pains of hell. So did I in a manner of speaking.
I’m calling The Painted Bird a “beautiful” highbrow art film for elite critics and cineastes who have the fence-straddling ability to enjoy magnificent b&w cinematography (all hail dp Vladimir Smutny) and austere visual compositions while savoring the utmost in human cruelty and heartless perversion.
The vile, animal-like behavior is unrelenting; ditto the highly sophisticated monochrome arthouse chops. Marhoul is quite gifted, determined and uncompromised, and quite the bold cinematic painter. He is also, as Kosinski was, one sick fuck.
I mean that in a good way as Marhoul is a Bergman-like in the application of an unrelenting clinical eye; he never panders or tries to soften things up for the mom-and-pop schmuckos — he’s totally playing to Guy Lodge and his ilk. This is a movie about some awful, horrific, beastly people (Harvey Keitel‘s priest and the kid’s father excepted), and what agony it can be to suffer under them on a prolonged basis.
I read Kosinski’s “The Painted Bird” when I was 22 or 23, and I somehow absorbed all the horrific sadism and cruelty and lonely agony without incident because of the dry, matter-of-fact Kosinski prose. It’s quite another thing to hang with that feral, dark-eyed little kid who doesn’t talk for the entire film.
What is the perverse obsession with people and animals being hung upside down by ropes? What was so terrible about servicing that hot-to-trot farmer’s daughter (Jitka Cadek Cvancarova)?
The instant you see white-haired, beard-stubbled Udo Kier, you go “oh God, here comes another cold, maniacal, salivating monster performance.” Harvey Keitel is totally subservient to the mise en scene — just playing an old, white-haired priest who coughs a lot and then dies. Julian Sands plays a total salivating beast. Barry Pepper (who was young 20 years ago but no longer) is interesting as a Russian soldier with no love for Communism or Josef Stalin.
From “Bari Weiss Takes a Flamethrower to The New York Times On Her Way Out The Door,” subheaded by “Finally, the Call-Out Machine got Called Out.” Posted late this afternoon.