On 9.7 I posted a short riff about the ending of Sydney Pollack‘s The Way We Were, which I’ve always regarded as one of the saddest ever. The scene also contains one of Robert Redford‘s finest acting moments.
A friend has forwarded five of her saddest ending picks — Letter from an Unknown Woman (d: Max Ophuls>) with Joan Fontaine; Waterloo Bridge (d: Mervyn LeRoy) with Vivien Leigh; Madame Bovary (d: Vicente Minnelli) starring Jennifer Jones; Anna Karenina (d: Clarence Brown) with Greta Garbo; and Dr. Zhivago (d: David Lean) w/ Julie Christie and Omar Sharif.
Please forward titles of films that measure up in your own regard. Extra points if your submissions are outside the usual realm.
Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal‘s Detroit (Annapurna, 7.28 and 8.4) opened and died a bit more than four years ago. It flopped, I feel, because it felt more like crude torture porn than an urban thriller, and not enough like Gillo Pontecorvo‘s The Battle of Algiers or Costa-Gavras‘s Z, both of which seemed like adaptable models for dramatizing the 1967 Detroit race riots.
Primarily a reenactment of the Algiers Motel incident, Detroit mainly felt like a bludgeoning. I’ll never give it another go (I saw it twice before it opened), but perhaps someone in the community has? And if so, how did it play?
HE really misses the vision and discipline of director Kathryn Bigelow, who also helmed The Hurt Locker (Best Picture winner of ’09) and Zero Dark Thirty (’12). The failure of Detroit was undoubtedly painful, but life is short and you have to get back on the horse. Bigelow is too good of a filmmaker to sit on the sidelines. The first woman to win a Best Director Oscar needs, in fact, to return and do it again.
“Detroit Broke My Heart,” posted on 7.23.17: Detroit is a raw-capture history lesson hoping to arouse and enrage, but it mostly bludgeons. I’m saying this with a long face and heavy heart as I like and admire these enterprising filmmakers, but there’s no getting around the fact that they’ve made a brutal, draggy downer. Detroit lacks complexity and catharsis. It doesn’t breathe.
I was hoping that this blistering docudrama, which isn’t so much about the 1967 Detroit riots as the bloody Algiers Motel killings, would play like Gillo Pontecorvo‘s The Battle of Algiers, but alas, nope. Failing that I wanted Detroit to be an investigative political thriller in the vein of Costa Gavras‘s Z, but that wasn’t the scheme either.
No one is more beholden to Bigelow-Boal than myself; ditto their magnificent Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker. But after these two films I’ve become accustomed to brilliance from these guys, or certainly something sharper, leaner and more sure-footed than this newbie.
At best, Detroit is a hard-charging, suitably enraged revisiting of what any decent person would call an appallingly ugly incident in the midst of a mid ‘60s urban war zone. And of course the system allowed the bad guys to more or less skate or not really get punished. What else is new?
The Algiers Motel incident happened, all right, to the eternal discredit of Detroit law enforcement system back then. But guess what? It doesn’t serve as a basis for an especially gripping or even interesting film.
Detroit has good chaotic action, street frenzy, bang bang, punch punch and lots of anger, and I really didn’t like sitting through it and I watched it twice, for Chrissake. For they’ve made a very insistent but air-less indictment film — militant, hammer-ish, screwed-down and a bit suffocating.
Thelma Adams to Sasha Stone about how the factors of racism and homophobia have affected Oscar viewership: “When Republicans like Trump spent the past 10 years mocking Hollywood and rightwing cranks spent decades fear-mongering about the mythical liberal agenda, why the heck would we not expect to see 10 or 15 million Republican viewers stop watching?
“A huge number of those people that have abandoned the Oscars would rather sit in the dark on Oscar Night rather than risk seeing any LGBTQ Oscar winners thank their partners for their love and support. Why do we even want those people watching the Oscars with us?
“Do I have any proof for my suspicions? Well, only circumstantial, but there’s this: What was the very first year that Oscar ratings plummeted from the 40 million range to the 30 million range? It was 2003, the year after Denzel and Halle won, that’s when.
“And what other shift in the Oscars coincided precisely with the steady decline in viewers? The decline began right after movies like Brokeback Mountain and Milk and Dallas Buyers Club started winning major awards, that’s when. So those changes that caused the Oscars to lose wrongheaded viewers were not anything the Oscars did wrong. Those viewers stopped watching when the Oscars began doing things right. It was the new era of [embracing] progress that upset several million viewers. How’s that for a theory?”
The title doesn’t do much for me, but I guess it’s okay. PTA’s film is set in Los Angeles in the early to mid ’70s. Back then Licorice Pizza was a Southern California-based record store chain with 34 locations, including one on the Sunset Strip.
Ruimy has linked to a Reddit guy named The_Horace_Wimp who claims to have attended a London screening of a 35mm print of American Graffiti earlier today, and that the trailer for Licorice Pizza played before it began. Others on Twitter are also reporting that this new title is legit.
In a recent “What I’m Hearing” column about the Motion Picture Academy’s plan to somehow arrest and even turn around the ratings plunge that has been increasing over the last five or six years, Matthew Belloni wrote that the “increasingly niche tastes of Academy members” are a principal reason why most people haven’t seen the films up for awards.
What Belloni means by “increasingly niche tastes” is that since ’16 or thereabouts, the film industry has increasingly fallen under the grip of aggressive progressives, otherwise known as wokesters (POCs, #MeToo-ers, LGBTQs, obliging guilty liberals, kowtowing corporations). And they’ve been calling the shots more and more, and it was this increasingly dominant influence that made last spring’s Steven Soderbergh Oscar telecast seem like such a suffocating experience.
We all understand that the Soderbergh Oscars absolutely killed whatever was left of the old mystique. They made it clear that the Oscars had been transformed into a West Coast Tony awards thing — awards that reflected the mentality of an elite membership that had its own progressive game going on, and to hell with skillfully finessed movies for the politically neutral meatheads — i.e., films that reach out to people and reflect their lives as actually lived.
(Sidenote: it’s heartening to note that one such film is Reinaldo Marcus Green‘s King Richard, due from Warner Bros./HBO Max on 11.19.)
Five or six years ago the “increasingly niche tastes” crowd, understandably goaded by the election of Donald Trump, decided that the older-white-male dominance had to be strongly diminished and that the world needed to change. And so the industry, Marvel and D.C bullshit franchises aside, needed to increasingly forego the usual escapist or emotional engagement elements and/or baseline reflections of real life that movies have historically provided over the decades, which meant mostly ignoring the experience of average Americans who live outside the NY/LA bubble.
Streaming changed everything and the pandemic really up-ended the salad bar, but what’s been implemented more and more over the last five or six years is a variation of the social realism movement that took hold in the modern art world of the 1930s.
“Since wokeness began to manifest in ’17 and certainly since the pandemic struck, the movie pipeline has been losing steam and under-providing, to put it mildly. Nothing even approaching the level of Spotlight, Manchester by the Sea, Call Me By Your Name, Dunkirk, Lady Bird, La-La Land, the long cut of Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor, Zero Dark Thirty or Portrait of a Woman on Fire has come our way from domestic filmmakers.
Above and beyond an array of pandemic suffocations, a significant reason for the strange absence of robust cinema, for this general faint-pulse feeling, is (wait for it) wokeness and political terror.
Since the release of the original and revolutionary The Matrix 22 and 1/2 years ago the red pill vs. blue pill metaphor has completely embedded itself into the mass mindset. You knew it had really penetrated when Elon Musk invoked it 16 months ago, and Ivanka Trump responded “taken!” The blue pill means safety and security by way of mediocrity and tedium, and the red pill is about illumination and “whoa!” and adventures in Wonderland. We’ve all been chewing on this notion since the late Clinton administration.
And yet Lana Wachowski, director, co-writer and producer of The Matrix Resurrections (Warner Bros., 12.22), felt obliged to literalize and re-boot the metaphor by showing us actual pills of a red and blue color in the new trailer. My response was “really?” The metaphor has to be re-explained because…what, GenZ never got the memo or something?
Why would anyone want to make another film with the word “Matrix” in it at all? It’s been 18 years since the double-shot poison cocktail of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions killed this franchise but good. Why would anyone want to drink from the same glass again?
From “Shoulda Quit When They Were Ahead“, posted on 4.1.14: “I remember paying to see the original The Matrix in the old multiplex at the Beverly Connection, on the southeast corner of La Cienega and Beverly Boulevard. It was opening weekend, and I remember floating out of the theatre and listening to the chatter as the crowd trudged down the stairway exit. A visionary knockout. The first grade-A cyber adventure. Bullet time! Obviously a hit.
“For the next four years I was convinced that the press-shy Wachowskis, who’d also directed the brilliant and hot-lesbo-sexy Bound, were pointing the way into 21st Century cinema and that everything they would henceforth create would dazzle as much as The Matrix, if not more so.
“And then The Matrix Reloaded came out a little more than four years later (5.15.03) and the millions who’d flipped over The Matrix were standing around with dazed expressions going “wait…what? ” And then The Matrix Revolutions opened on 11.5.03 and that was it…dead, finished, imploded. Larry and Andy who?