Like a strange virus I had absorbed but hadn't yet settled into my system, I could feel my latent loathing for David Lowery's The Green Knight early on. I didn't watch it when it first came out because I "knew" (i.e., strongly sensed) I would hate it. I finally streamed it late last night, and I felt smothered in boredom within seconds. Drugged, oxygen-starved, submerged in medieval muck, and facing a terrible two-hour slog. Login with Patreon to view this post
“Joaquin Phoenix plays a soulful, kindhearted radio journalist deep into a project in which he interviews children across the U.S. about the world’s uncertain future. The film finds him connecting to his 8-year-old nephew (Woody Norman), who’s suffering from mental health issues, and taking him on a cross-country journey. Costarring Gaby Hoffmann and Jaboukie Young-White, pic will be released by A24.
I’m hearing “black-and-white road trip movie…moody, very arty, very euro, tons of voiceover.” Mills allegedly interrupts the narrative from time to time with docu-style interviews, kids talking about life, etc.
The term “gritty ’70s crime film” and Ulu Grosbard and Dustin Hoffman‘s Straight Time (’78) are a pretty good match. Co-written by Alvin Sargent, Edward Bunker and Jeffrey Boam (with uncredited script assistance from Michael Mann), I think it may be the best acted, the most insightful and certainly the most realistic drama about a low-life criminal ever made.
Hoffman directed one day’s worth of shooting, and then Grosbard was hired to direct the remainder. Hoffman later claimed that only the first 20 minutes’ worth represents his vision of the material.
Hoffman plays a hard-core felon, Max Dembo, just released from a six-year stretch in the slam. The film is mainly about his difficulties with a goading, mind-fucking parole officer (M. Emmet Walsh) and his fraternizing with two ex-con pals (Harry M. Stanton, Gary Busey) who eventually nudge him back to a life of crime. Theresa Russell is first-rate as the average, solemn-faced girl whom Dembo hooks up with.
Alas, Straight Time opened under conflicted circumstances on 3.17.78. Hoffman made the low-budget drama with the understanding that he would have creative control provided the film did not go over budget and schedule. First Artists chairman Phil Feldman claimed that it did go over budget, and the film was taken away from Hoffman. Straight Time was well reviewed but didn’t do a lot of business.
Roughly 29 years later it was released on DVD (May 2007), and an HD version is streaming we speak. I just re-watched the HD streaming version last night, and for an average film shot in regular 35mm I can’t imagine it looking much better. I don’t know why Warner Archive waited all this time to release a Bluray disc version, but they’re finally doing so on 9.21.21.
Jenny Mercer (Theresa Russell): What happened. Where’ve you been?
Max Dembo (Dustin Hoffman): Had to take care of some business.
Mercer: What kind of business? Why are you all dirty?
Dembo: I broke through a wall.
Dembo: To get something. (looks around, walks around) Place looks nice. What made you finally decide to unpack? (pause) How far you wanna take this? Huh?
Mercer: I don’t know. Thought we were workin’ on somethin’ here. Maybe I was wrong.
Dembo: No, you’re not wrong but whadaya think I been doin’? You want me to lie, say I’m workin’ at a hot dog stand? You know I can’t work a regular job. I can’t sit here and take your money. You have an alternative for me? I’m doin’ what I do. If you’re tellin’ me you can’t take it, you’re tellin’ me it’s too heavy for you then I’ll just walk out the door. I’ll walk but I don’t want to.
Mercer: Well, is this a one-time thing or what?
Dembo: That depends on how lucky I get.
So Wes Anderson‘s The French Dispatch (Searchlight, 10.22) will have its big stateside debut at the 2021 New York Film Festival. Which means, of course, that it won’t be at the 2021 Telluride or Toronto gatherings. The latter festival, I’m told, really went the extra mile to try and persuade Anderson and Searchlight to have the big North American premiere in Toronto, but all for naught.
Why exactly? Because Toronto is generally regarded as a shit-show these days. They don’t know what they’re doing, and, like Sundance, they’ve safe-spaced and woked themselves into a corner.
Who opens a festival with a serving of musical snowflake pablum like Dear Evan Hansen with a 28 year-old “teenager” who looks like he’s 33? Some films still want to buddy up with Toronto for promotional purposes and that’s fine, but the Toronto Film Festival’s heyday (late ’90s to late teens) has come to an end. Toronto needs an official second-class seal attached to its logo. Let’s all get together and cut Toronto out of the action…seriously!
This is pure speculation but did TIFF reject Paul Schrader‘s The Card Counter because his Facebook posts have been too boomerish?
I adore the fact that Toronto is floundering, taking hits, missing out, experiencing behind-the-scenes chaos, etc.
The only biggies that Telluride missed out on are The French Dispatch and The Tragedy of Macbeth. I’m presuming they rejected Dune, and who wouldn’t?
Right now TIFF is basically suggesting that press people should stay home and watch everything digitally. A friend recently emailed them about covering the fest in-person and the press office was quite literally trying to convince him to cover it remotely and watch the films at home digitally.
Last month a Toronto veteran was shaking his head about TIFF opening with Dear Evan Hansen, which seems weak and inconsequential even by the standards of a weak and inconsequential festival. The days when TIFF was an essential stopover — a big, muscular, must-attend, launch-of-awards-season festival — are over, and that is an excellent thing, trust me. They seem so uncertain, so off-balance, so anxious an∂ even puzzled. The world belongs to Venice, Telluride, New York, Berlin and Cannes now. Toronto is strictly second-tier.
The initial Eternals teaser used Skeeter Davis‘s “The End of the World” as a background track, and now, in the new trailer, they’ve got Lia McHugh‘s “Sprite” saying “this is what the end of the world looks like…at least we have front-row seats.”
I’m not adopting the posture of some drooling, wild-eyed fanatic by claiming that The Eternals and the whole mythological Marvel branding machine of the last 13 years is the end of the moviegoing world as many of us have known it, but the Marvel virus has absolutely infected the realm. It is box-office manna but otherwise cancer…chemical sugar highs for pigs at the trough.
HE to all human beings and to God Herself: As payback and cure and an act of salvation it is the solemn responsibility of each and every serious film lover to band together and do what we can to turn The Eternals into another box-office shortfaller…to make it into another The Suicide Squad…to bring about a less impressive performance than Black Widow. Let’s all band together and punch a hole in the balloon…let’s send a message to Kevin Feige (who came from the same leafy New Jersey town that I went to school and suffered in for so many years)…”nothing lasts forever, friendo!”
I first heard of Sonny Chiba, the recently deceased martial arts superstar, in the early fall of ’93. It was during my first viewing of Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino‘s True Romance, and specifically a scene in which Christian Slater‘s “Clarence Worley” praises Chiba for being the greatest martial arts actor in the world.
If Worley hadn’t delivered that ringing endorsement, I would’ve never heard of Chiba. In the 28 years since that first viewing, have I watched a single Chiba film? Have I watched any martial-arts films apart from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon over the span of my entire life? Due respect but not a one — donut.** And I’m completely cool with that.
Due respect to Chiba all the same, and condolences to his friends, family, fans and colleagues. The 82 year-old performer died from Covid-19.
** Yojimbo, Sanjuro, The Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress don’t count.