You can watch The Irishman on Netflix any time you want, and it looks great. I’m not sure if it’s a 4K or 1080p presentation, but the color, sound and detail are perfect. So what’s the point of paying $32 for a Criterion Bluray version of this 2019 Martin Scorsese classic? I’ll tell you what the point is — it’s a nice keepsake. By putting it on your bookshelf you’re more or less saying to family and visitors, “I respect Parasite but I’m not really a Parasite type of guy. Because I’m an Irishman type of guy. I would rather watch Al Pacino‘s Jimmy Hoffa get pissed off at Stephen Graham‘s ‘Tony Pro’ for being late ‘to a meetin” 15 or 20 times than watch that clumsy Parasite scam artist family let that stupid maid into the house in the middle of a torrential downpour once. I will never, ever watch Parasite again (twice was more than enough) but I’m ready to watch The Irishman any number of times between now and whenever.
…but the quality of the journey. And so I would choose 9, 1 (which I already have but it doesn’t hurt to have insurance) and…uhm, 4. Because all good things flow from wealth and health, and because I’d like to be Jesus of Nazareth on the side. I have 6 already from my marriage to Tatiana. 7 and 8 are silly. 2 is on you — eat right, take care of yourself. 5 isn’t necessary as my intelligence levels are formidable as is. If I were single I would say “if you have 9 you don’t have to worry about 6.”
George Clooney‘s The Midnight Sky (Netflix, 12.23) is an apocalyptic gloom-and-doomer of an allegedly high calibre. Based on Lily Brooks-Dalton‘s “Good Morning, Midnight” with a screenplay by Mark L. Smith, it’s about an Arctic-based scientist named Augustine (Clooney), seriously ill and coping with a ruined world, trying to keep a team of astronauts (Felicity Jones, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone) from returning to earth.
I’m personally devastated that this ambitious film, directed by Clooney and shot on large-format 65mm celluloid, won’t be commercially booked into IMAX theatres or any other big-screen venue due to Covid. I’m also depressed to have heard that George recently rented out Westwood’s Village theatre to screen it for a few Netflix staffers and friends. Depressed, I mean, that I wasn’t invited to attend. I live for large-format films and huge screens…c’mon.
HE to Netflix: Please consider showing it again on a big screen and inviting a few masked journos (including myself) to see it wherever…IMAX headquarters, Westwood, American Cinematheque, you name it.
From Pete Hammond’s Deadline interview with Clooney, posted on 11.23: “[This] is an exceptionally well-made and engrossing film, an epic told on an intimate scale that…deserves to be on anyone’s short list for awards recognition. Its images have certainly haunted me since I saw it a few weeks ago, particularly in the facial expressions of Clooney’s young co-star, 8-year-old Caoilinn Springall, chosen from among hundreds who auditioned.
“I could easily see nominations for Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Production Design, Score, Film Editing (from longtime Clooney associate Stephen Mirrione), Sound, Hair and Makeup, Visual Effects and for Clooney’s lead performance, an understated turn that is deeply moving.
“Like much of what attracts Clooney to make movies these days, this one has a penetrating resonance and pertinence for what is going on in our lives, and despite a large-scale production shot in Iceland during horrific weather conditions and on a soundstage in England involving a virtual spaceship and other VR challenges, it is ultimately an intimate story full of silences and internal thought and the need for human connection.
“Oddly, it also offers hope. It is that last part that not only makes this an exciting and also meaningful adventure, but one that also makes this film feel incredibly relevant right now.”
…except in this instance, the mishearing is better than the actual lyric.
“Sway” a song recorded by Dean Martin in the ’50s, is heard over the closing credits of Jonathan Glazer‘s Sexy Beast, which I saw for the first time 20 years ago at the Toronto Film Festival and which I happened to re-watch last night on HBO Max**.
In the third stanza the “Sway” lyrics read as follows: “Other dancers may be on the floor / Dear, but my eyes will see only you / Only you have the magic technique / When we sway I go weak.”
I’ve watched Sexy Beast several times over the last two decades, and every time at the end of this stanza Martin sings “I go wheee.” Which is a much better line. The guy is head over heels with a new lover, and when the randy mood builds and builds he says “wheee!” to himself like a kid on a rollercoaster. Do you understand how much better that is than “I go weak”?
On 10.2.04, James Gandolfini performed a Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” bit with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. He spoke as Tony Soprano, of course, and so his remarks about recently resigned New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey were meant to be absorbed ironically or, you know, winkingly. Even within this strict context, this kind of routine would never be performed today…not a chance. The twitter howls would be deafening.
In Focus Features’ production kit, Ethan Coen clearly stated that A Serious Man “takes place in 1967.” (And particularly during the “summer of love.”) And yet when the Columbia Record Club guy calls Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) about late payments, he mentions two 1970 albums — “Santana Abraxas” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Cosmo’s Factory.” The Coens are very exacting screenwriters and filmmakers so why would they do this? They could have easily fixed this.
This early scene in Louis Malle‘s Damage (’92) is one of the all-time best of its type — a scene in which penetrating eye contact removes any doubt whatsoever about what will soon transpire. It doesn’t matter that the below clip has been dubbed into German — the absence of native English almost intensifies the effect.
I can think of only one other eye-current scene that works as well — the scene when Warren Beatty runs into Julie Christie at the very end of Heaven Can Wait inside the L.A. Colisseum — they’ve only just “met” in a certain sense, but their shared emotional future is instantly apparent.
After a prolonged period of denial and obfuscation about the outcome of the 11.3 election, General Services Administration honcho Emily W. Murphy finally agreed to initiate transfer of power procedures between the Trump and Biden teams. “I have always strived to do what is right,” Murphy wrote to Biden. “I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision.”
From Keith Olbermann’s 11.23 rant: “This is no judgment call by an overly cautious bureaucrat…this is pure cover-your-ass politics…what Murphy is doing, simply, is trying to avoid Trump’s anger. More practically, she is trying to avoid having Trump fire her. She’s been holding up the peaceful transfer of power in this country for the sake of her resume. ABC News reported on 11.16 that Murphy privately sent a message to a colleague, [a message] which ABC has seen, in which Murphy asks for leads and help getting a new job.
“She is doing all this…inserting herself into the wheels of government and literally freezing a nation in place [while trying to] humor a psychopathic lame duck…so that she doesn’t piss off any other Trump cultists who might hire her, and for all potential employers she doesn’t have to admit that Trump fired her…this is how sick this individual is…’screw the nation, I need a good reference.'”
Variety‘s Clayton Davis has posted an updated list of the Top Ten Likeliest Best Picture Nominees, and I’m telling you right now that at least three of his picks are somewhat questionable. I’m speaking of Emerald Fennell‘s Promising Young Woman, Shaka King‘s Judas and the Black Messiah and Ryan Murphy‘s The Prom.
The safest bets on Clayton’s list are Nomadland, Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Minari and The Father (5). The soft positives are One Night in Miami and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2).
If The Prom lands a Best Picture nomination…well, let’s hold up on that puppy.
It may be that Promising Young Woman will land a Best Picture nomination as a gesture of respect. It has its finger on the pulse, so to speak, and it’s an impressive film for its hardcore asshole-hating sensibility and its refusal to offer even a semblance of a warm, reassuring, semi-fuzzy ending. It’s a mark of integrity to stick to your guns the way Emerald Fennell has. I’d nonetheless be very surprised if a film this didactic and hate-driven turns out to be Best Picture nominated. Respected, yes. Ballsy, yes. But that may be all.
I’ve asked around and it doesn’t appear as if any of the usual in-the-loop handicappers have seen Judas and the Black Messiah. One naturally wonders if Clayton knows someone associated with the film, etc.
Judas and the Black Messiah seems to be basically a riff on John Ford‘s The Informer, minus the alcoholic Gypo Nolan factor. Lakeith Stanfield‘s performance as the FBI snitch William O’Neal, who infamously ratted out Black Panther organizer Fred Hampton, would have to be the central figure, I would imagine.
I’m sorry but Judas and the Black Messiah strikes me as overly “on the nose” for a movie title. Hampton wasn’t a “black messiah” by any definition I’m familiar with. The term generally alludes to perhaps a deliverer of some kind, or some kind of holy figure who might bring a measure of salvation to followers. Hampton was a hardcore Black Panther and a respected organizer who had a certain profile in New Left circles in the SF/Oakland Bay Area. The FBI regarded him as an incendiary figure, but he wasn’t famous. He wasn’t Eldridge Cleaver or Bobby Seale or Stokely Carmichael. He had a certain profile, and of course he was killed (in December 1969) before the famous Radical Chic party thrown by Leonard and Felicia Bernstein, which had invited Don Cox as a guest of honor.
It just seems a bit excessive to call Hampton a messianic figure, and then to identify O’Neal as a “Judas”…yes, he was that but to label him as such in the title seems so sledgehammer. It indicates to me that the film may follow suit. Who knows?
When Sergio Leone titled his famous 1966 spaghetti western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly ,he didn’t specifically allude to the fact that Clint Eastwood was playing “the Good”, Lee Van Cleef “the Bad” and Eli Wallach “the Ugly.” The title allowed you to think that maybe all three characters possessed these characteristics in equal measure. It allowed you to think that it wasn’t necessarily a settled issue.
Translation: Forget turkey dinner with your in-laws, cousins, grandparents, best friends, good neighbors. None of that works this year. Small gatherings, immediate family. In John Le Carre terms, Thanksgiving 2020 can only be celebrated according to strict “Moscow rules“. I’n saying this because I keep hearing that roughly 30% of the country is determined to turn Thanksgiving into a super-spreader event.
Although it didn’t open commercially until March ’01, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Amores perros began to make the rounds in the fall of 2000. Hence the 20th anniversary excitement emanating from the upcoming Criterion Bluray (12.15.20).
The Mexico City-based film had a somewhat coarse and desaturated appearance, and Criterion’s 4K digital restoration, supervised by Inarritu and dp Rodrigo Prieto, recreates this visual aesthetic. Which presents a stark contrast with the more colorful if less accurate 2017 Lionsgate Bluray.
DVD Beaver’s Gary Tooze: “Criterion [has] restored a ‘bleach-bypass process on the camera negative’ technique to attain a certain rough-hewn image. This grittier appearance is both intended and important to the film’s visual expression — an appearance that appears less crisp and almost dirty. It is also now in the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio.”
Red Flag: Tooze writes that the Amores perros disc contains “some minor teal infiltration”…teal again! So far the Criterion teal gremlins have distorted the color palettes of three significant films — Pier Paolo Pasolini‘s Teorema (which I watched last weekend on the Criterion Channel, and the teal-tinting is both glaring and vulgar), John Schlesinger‘s Midnight Cowboy and Ron Shelton‘s Bull Durham. If Tooze is correct, Criterion’s Amores perros Bluray is the fourth.
AP, filed on 11.21: “Skeletal remains of two guys — a rich man and a slave — have been discovered in Pompeii, officials at the archaeological park in Italy said Saturday. The two were attempting to escape death from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago
“Parts of the skulls and bones of the two men were found during excavation of the ruins from what was once an elegant villa with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea on the outskirts of the ancient Roman city destroyed by the volcano eruption in AD 79.”
Jett and I visited Pompeii 13 and 1/2 years ago, but the administrators in charge of the ruins blew us off, in a sense, by not exhibiting any bodies to speak of. The bodies were on tour, it turned out. They could’ve left a few behind to sate the appetites of people like ourselves, but nope.
Posted on 5.31.07: Hollywood Elsewhere visited the actual Pompeii ruins yesterday. I’m very glad I went — this is the best-preserved ancient Roman city anywhere, covered as it was and frozen in time by tons of ash that spewed out of Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD. The problem is that I was too cheap to buy a map or go with a tour group, and by the end of our visit I’d come across only one lousy plaster-covered body.
The frescoes and the pottery and the precisely preserved apartments and villas are fascinating, but let’s be honest — if you come to Pompeii, you want to see how the citizens met their doom. You want freeze-frame death statues of people going “aaaah, this hurts!” And in this respect, Pompeii struck me as a faint ripoff. There should be bodies everywhere, in every house. Bodies of men, women, children, dogs, horses. Plus there were no chariots or carts. Or none that I came across.
On top of which the area just outside Pompeii’s ancient walls looks like a cross between Orlando Disney World and the border approach in Tijuana. Scores of ticky-tacky motels, gross souvenir shops, low-grade pizzerias and fruit stands. Jett found it disgraceful, saying that the commerce dishonors the dead.