Congrats to HE’s own Nicholas Jarecki for having written and directed Crisis (Quiver, 2.26), a mostly effective, better-than-decent, Traffic-like drama about the opioid plague. I haven’t time to get into it now (I need to get outside and stretch my legs and breath a little air) but it’s definitely pretty good, and no, I didn’t think once about Armie Hammer‘s social-media, cannibal-cunnilingus problem…not once.
Costarring Gary Oldman (who has a much cooler haircut in this film than he did in Mank), Evangeline Lilly, Michelle Rodriguez, Mia Kirshner, Greg Kinnear, Jarecki himself, Luke Evans, Lily-rose Depp and Martin Donovan.
Three interwoven stories concerning the illegal trafficking of fentanyl, oxycodone and other opioid drugs. Crisis arrives on VOD and streaming on March 5th.
I’ve bought the Kindle version of Mark Harris‘s “Mike Nichols: A Life”, which pops on Tuesday. The Nichols signature was always about knack and intuition and doubt and a lot of fretting, and somewhat less about striking creative oil and channeling divine guidance and inspiration. (Although that happened from time to time.) In my view Nichols was God’s gift between ’66 and The Day of the Dolphin (which I half-liked). After that the Nichols brand was an in-and-out, touch-and-go thing.
If you were into Nichols back in the day (and who wasn’t?) you were at least partly looking to be part of the Nichols attitude clan, which was a kind of cool kidz fraternity…an in-crowd thing that you felt every time you watched one of his better films.
I’ve just watched the CBS Sunday Morning piece on his book and Nichols and the whole serpentine journey of the guy, and I have to say that Mark looks satisfied but exhausted. Covid appears to have been as rough on him as it has been on me. You don’t want to know. In the space of 11 months Covid has aged me five years. Inwardly, I mean.
HE’s Nichols obit, posted on 11.20.14: Some are truly gifted, and if those in that small, choice fraternity are tenacious and lucky and sometimes scrappy enough, they get to develop their gift and turn what they have inside into works that matter for people of all stripes and philsophies. And then there are those gifted types who are fortunate enough to catch a certain inspiration at the right point in their lives, which turns into a wave that carries and defines their finest work for all time to come.
This was how things pretty much went for the late and great Mike Nichols, who passed yesterday from a heart attack.
His film-directing career (which alternated from time to time with directing and producing hit Broadway plays), which was flourishy and satisfying and sometimes connected with the profound, lasted from the mid ’60s to mid aughts. Nichols had a touch and a style that everyone seemed to recognize, a certain mixture of sophisticated urban comedy and general gravitas. His first gusher was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff in 1966, and his last truly excellent film was HBO’s Angels in America. If you add Nichols’ brilliant early ’60s stand-up comedy period with Elaine May he really was Mr. King Shit for the better part of a half-century.
But Nichols’ most profound filmic output lasted for eight or nine years, or roughly ’66 through ’74 or ’75 — a chapter known for a certain stylistic signature mixed with an intense and somewhat tortured psychology that came from his European Jewish roots. Longtime Nichols collaborator Richard Sylbert, whom I knew fairly well from the late ’80s to the early aughts, explained it to me once. Nichols had developed that static, ultra-carefully composed, long-take visual approach that we saw in The Graduate, Catch 22, Carnal Knowledge, Day of the Dolphin and The Fortune, and this signature was, Sylbert believed, what elevated Nichols into the Movie God realm.
Hollywood Elsewhere mildly….no, take that back…heartily approves of Simon Stone‘s The Dig (Netflix, 12.29). That means I wasn’t exactly knocked flat but it did move me in a gently nudging way, and that I found it generally pleasing as far as this kind of modest and unassuming British period drama goes. And I loved Ralph Fiennes‘ performance as real-life archeological excavator Basil Brown — his gutty working-class accent is note perfect, but the performance is in his eyes…at various times determined, defiant, sad, compassionate.
And Carey Mulligan‘s Edith Pretty…wow! Talk about a performance at once strong, heartbreaking (as in sadly resigned) and resilient. Between this, Promising Young Woman and her Netflix detective series Collateral, there’s no disputing that she’s sitting high atop the Alpine peak these days…she and Streep, Blanchett, Davis, Ronan, Williams.
It tells the story of the famous Sutton Hoo dig of 1939, which uncovered a sixth-century Anglo Saxon burial site. It’s about a lot more than soil and geology and long-buried artifacts, of course. Pretty, the ailing owner of a large Suffolk estate, hires Brown to discover what may or may not be lying underneath some large mounds on her property. Once the importance of Brown’s find gets around, establishment archeologists rush in to share (or even claim) credit, or to try and get rid of Brown because he hasn’t the right speech patterns or pedigree.
Question #1: Around the halfway mark Edith becomes more and more ill with heart disease, Basil’s discovery phase recedes in the mist, and the movie is largely taken over by three young newcomers — Edith’s young, good-looking cousin, Rory (Johnny Flynn), and a loveless couple, Stuart and Peggy Piggott (Lily James, Ben Chaplin). For some reason the narrative dovetails into a heated triangle with James looking to schtup the daylights out of Flynn. Who cares if James gets royallylaidornot? I was so put off by this detour that I began to entertain a delicious fantasy — of Lily James never having sex again! Blissful celibacy!
Question #2: Why did Sixth Century Anglo Saxons decide to bury exalted kings and warriors inside a ship, of all things? A rite that required hauling the ship out of water, hauling it across dry land, digging a huge hole in which to bury it and then covering it up. Why go to all that trouble?
Question #3: Once the remnants of the ship have been fully excavated, we can see impressions of the ribs of the hull. The wood, I presume, has long since rotted or been eaten away but impressions of the main hull beams remain. But has the wood been completely destroyed by natural elements? The film can’t be bothered to explain. I for one would have liked to know some more archeological particulars. This 1.29.21 National Geographic article helps.
“Gone the museums, gone the tourist-filled riverboats plying the Seine, gone the sidewalk terraces offering their pleasures at dusk, gone the movie theaters, gone the casual delights of wandering and the raucous banter of the most northern of southern cities. In their place, a gray sadness has settled over the city like fog.
“I have seen sunlight three or four times since arriving from New York about seven weeks ago. A glimmer, a summons to life, gone soon enough to leave doubts as to whether it was real. New York does not do drizzle or weeks of uninterrupted gray skies.
“So my adaptation has been harsh, particularly to a Paris with its soul torn out. ‘It’s of an absolute sadness,’ Alain Ducasse, the celebrated chef, said, when I asked how Paris felt these days. ‘It’s a terrible imprisonment. The French are not accustomed to life without its social side, a drink at a cafe, a touch, a kiss.’
“Yes, even the ‘bisou,’ the little kiss on both cheeks that is a rite of greeting or farewell, is gone.
“With more than 74,000 people dead across France from the pandemic, everyone understands the restrictions imposed. Almost all major cities across the world have had to endure lost lives, lost jobs, lost ways of life. Paris is far from alone in its deprivations.
“But each city changes in its own way. In New York the absence that feels most acute is of the energy that defines it. In Paris, the hole in its heart is the absence of the sensual conviviality that makes people dream. It is the disappearance of pleasures the French have spent centuries refining in the belief there is no limit to them.” — from “Paris, Shuttered, Must Be Imagined,” a 1.30.21 N.Y. Times piece by Roger Cohen.
Certain songs and experiences are sometimes welded together in our hearts and memories. For me, The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” will always be the song I listened to in a London pub on the night of December 7, 1980 — hours before the death of John Lennon. “Synchronicity” is the soundtrack to my so-called West Hollywood + Hollywood Reporter life of ’83 and ’84. Chumbawumba‘s “Tubthumping” will always be the anthem of the 1997 Mill Valley Film Festival, which the boys and I attended start to finish. And Simply Red/Mick Hucknall‘s “Sunrise” will always always always be the theme song of the 2003 Locarno Film Festival — another great adventure shared by Jett, Dylan and myself
Always frank, reliably caustic Fran Lebowitz (Bowen Yang) and adoring sycophant Martin Scorsese (Kyle Mooney) on SNL‘s “Weekend Update”…Fran riffing on the annoying horrors of Manhattan life, plugging Pretend It’s a City. Best bit on SNL last night by far — I was shocked to find myself actually laughing as opposed to LQTM-ing. Question: Is this skit more funny to devoted fans of Parasite than of The Irishman?