I have nothing novel or interesting to say about the original Romanoff’s…nothing at all. It was a famed Beverly Hills in-crowd restaurant that peaked in the ’40s and ’50s, and was frequented almost daily during this hallowed era by Humphrey Bogart, according to biographer Ezra Goodman. The owner, Michael Romanoff (1890 – 1971) was a character with a bit of a shady past. Some used the admiring, affectionate term of “con man”. He claimed to be descended from Russian royalty, but was actually born as Hershel Geguzin in Lithuania, worked as a Brooklyn pants presser, was deported to France in May of ’32 to serve time for fraud, etc. The movie crowd loved him. The first version of Romanoff’s, located at 326 No. Rodeo Drive (north of Wilshire), ran between ’41 and ’51; the second version (240 So. Rodeo Drive) ran from ’51 to ’62. Romanoff played a maitre’d in a studio simulation of Romanoff’s in A Guide for the Married Man (’67).
Posted on 9.11.20: Last night I watched the new 4K UHD Psycho Bluray disc, and I’m very sorry to report that portions of it are grainstormed all to hell, and I mean totally smothered in swarms of digital micro-mosquitoes.
There were complaints here and there about the previous Psycho Bluray (the 2010 50th anniversary edition) being overly DNR’ed (digital noise reduction), and so the Universal Home Video grain monks (i.e., “the grainmakers”) went into the control room and took their revenge.
The older DNR’d Psycho Bluray (which I can no longer find on Amazon) is much more pleasing to the eye. Yes, I know that the DNR’ed look isn’t what the film really looked like when it came out of the lab in ’60, and I couldn’t care less. All the surfaces and textures look clean and smooth and ultra-detailed, but now the Universal gremlins have injected hundreds of billions of throbbing mosquitoes into this classic Hitchcock film.
By the way: As noted earlier, the 4K Psycho includes some excised material that had never been available before, including a brief glimpse of Janet Leigh side-boob as Anthony Perkins watches her undress through a peephole.
Also: The knifing of Arbogast (Martin Balsam) at the bottom of the stairs now includes two or three extra stabbing strokes. Except the sound of Arbogast’s “arrhhwwghhhh!” is oddly delayed. The knife plunges in a couple of times, but he doesn’t go “arrhhwwghhhh!” until the third stab. Brilliant.
Note: The top video clip is an ECU of the Bates Motel parlor scene from the new 4K disc. The Egyptian mosquito grainstorm effect is obvious to the naked eye. The below video clip is an ECU of a scene from the 2010 Psycho Bluray — very little grain to speak of.
All I can tell you is that Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin‘s Tina (HBO Max, 3.27) instantly bored me. I could just feel an intention…actually a determination to be as kind and worshipful as possible…to go easy and paint an adoring portrait of a great pop superstar blah blah. So after watching for 15 or 20 I turned it off. So I don’t know anything except what I could feel coming around the corner.
Here’s a 5.16.21 review from someone who actually sat through it — i.e., The Spool‘s B.L. Panther:
“Just like the Whitney (’18) documentary before it, Tina begins with the intention of teaching us how to better appreciate its subject only to get caught up in the same drama it set out to avoid. As a result, we learn little else.
“There’s no real delving into her musicianship and development of sound/style during her solo years. The years in between Ike [Turner] and the Private Dancer album seem rife with explorations of LA cabaret scenes, how TV became instrumental in crafting celebrity stories/careers, and how Tina was discovering what it meant to be herself at that time.
“Indeed the discussions of Tina’s music largely take a backseat. Her later albums are unremarked upon. I want to know how and why Wildest Dreams sounds like it does. Does she have nothing to say about recording an iconic Bond theme? We learn nothing about how to better listen to Tina. No musical collaborators appear to talk about being with Tina in the studio/on set.
“This is a woman who toured and performed with the greats yet we hear nothing about how Tina fits within mutual exchanges of inspiration happening across the pond in the 70s and 80s. She’s ‘the woman who taught Mick Jagger how to dance’ yet we never hear that story or what it means for us. How does Tommy fit into the story of freedom in Europe she talks about in the documentary? We never learn why she settled in Europe and relinquished her American citizenship.
“Most of all I wish we could have understood more of how love has changed Tina’s life. There’s zero mention of how it saved her life. There was such a persistent void of love in her early life that an exploration of how Erwin Bach changed her and how love affected what she sang about or how she sang it. How did her Buddhist faith practice evolve once she found the love she’d been searching for? That questions like these still linger shows that there’s not enough follow-through with some of the other big motifs Lindsay and Martin set out at the beginning.
As part of its recent review of The Carole Lombard Collection 2 in 1080p, DVD Beaver has compared screen shots of an old Lombard collection on DVD vs. the new Bluray masters. Here, for example, are comparisons of a shot from Mitchell Leisen‘s Hands Across The Table (’35), which costarred Lombard and Fred MacMurray.
The brighter, sharper, more glistening image is from the 2006 DVD and the grayer, darker, murkier image is from the 4.6.21 Bluray.
Who in their right mind would even toy with the idea of buying the Lombard Bluray set? What Bluray technician in his or her right mind would say, “Okay, let’s see…we want the Bluray to deliver a ‘bump’ over the DVD — something that looks sharper, richer, more gleaming — so let’s make the film look grayer, duller and less contrasty…like it’s covered in light fog and muck sauce.”
Gary W. Tooze‘s DVD Beaver review excerpt: “The three films in this set were offered on DVD in 2006 as part of Universal’s ‘Carole Lombard — The Glamour Collection.’ The new 1080p image quality advances the presentation with more layered contrast, although the first two films can appear ‘lighter’ by comparison..”
More honest Tooze: “The Bluray has more information, of course, but it looks kinda shitty.”
Rifkin’s Festival is definitely among Woody Allen‘s worst films. (Here’s my 2.12.21 review.) But if Allen had included a scene in which the 77-year-old Wallace Shawn is knocked down and swept along by one of those rogue waves that routinely smash against the fortified San Sebastian coastline, it would have been a whole different thing. Just the thought of Shawn and costar Elena Anaya marvelling at the choppy seas and then…WHUHSHHH! Obliterated, devoured, soaked…both of them squealing like piglets. I hated Shawn’s crabby, gnomish septugenarian, you see, so his getting all-but-destroyed by a wave would have been…kinda perfect!
The San Sebastian waves are famous. It was derelict of Allen not to include such a scene.
Joe Biden slipped three times while boarding Air Force One, okay, but he didn’t do it like some frail nursing-home geriatric. He fell like a guy in good shape, like a marathon runner, like an old workout Nazi. He wasn’t “walking” up the stairs but almost jogging up them…springing along like an antelope or mountain goat. Then he turned and saluted. His stumble wasn’t even in the same ballpark as Gerald Ford‘s infamous Air Force One fall.
In short, it’s not if you fall (everybody slips occasionally) but how you do it…whether you fall with grace and style, and how quickly you recover.
Hollywood Elsewhere enjoys and approves of Covid altercations in which obvious sociopaths (i.e., those who inconvenience others by refusing to wear masks) are booed, jeered and wrestled to the ground when somebody takes a swing at a heckler.
It happened at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood airport; the offenders were three women from Chicago. They were kicked off a Chicago-bound plane for not wearing face masks, according to Miami’s 7News. While being led back to the terminal by security, an angry crowd began booing and heckling and then one of the women took a swing at a heckler, and shit quickly got real.
The Critics Choice Awards group, a distinguished and influential journalist org that plays a big annual role during award season, gave me the boot today because of that post that was up for maybe an hour or so, a post that contained a discussion about the ramifications of the recent Atlanta killings and how this might tangentially stir the pot as far as Oscar considerations were concerned.
Feinberg: “Wells, who regularly sparks controversy with his riffs on Hollywood and social issues, most recently provoked widespread outrage with an article that he posted and then deleted on Wednesday, but which others screengrabbed and posted to social media. The piece featured speculation about the implications of Tuesday’s shootings at Atlanta-area Asian spas on the Oscar prospects of the Chinese director of Nomadland, Chloe Zhao, and the American film about Korean immigrants, Minari. Wells attributed those views to unnamed ‘friendos’ with whom he says he conversed.”
Here’s what I gave Feinberg, quote and reaction-wise:
“To know that I won’t be getting the usual swag and DVD screeners during the ’21 and ’22 Oscar season, and not attending the Critics Choice awards show at Barker Hangar…that’s not the end of the world. Not to me, it isn’t. But dodging the slings and arrows of the woke mafia is harrowing and upsetting and quite an ugly thing to experience.
“All I did was briefly and rather stupidly post a digressive conversation, an odd tangent stemming from a terrible tragedy…a digressive dicussion that anybody might have voiced or been privy to at any social gathering, if we were having social gatherings. People in my world consider all the currents and echoes and side issues… everything swirls together. Knowledgable people consider all the angles.
“It was the wrong thing to post yesterday — I obviously got that and took it down as quickly as possible when I realized what the reaction was. But when the Twitter wolves are agitated and salivating and thirsty for blood, they copy posts and pass them around like deranged hyenas.
“Wokesters are the plague and the brain police of our time, and I just hope Michael Haneke or somebody like him makes a film about them some day. If William Burroughs were alive and well he’d have a field day with these monsters.
“Obviously I realize it was a mistake to mention something as trivial as the Oscar race in the middle of a terrible crisis, hours after the killings were first reported. I obviously understand that. I obviously made a big mistake. I realized my error very quickly and took it down as quickly as possible. Mistakes happen.
“[But] every so often I’m reminded just how extreme our culture has become in persecuting people for what they think and what they say. My mistake was obvious, but I especially erred by posting a digressive discussion at the wrong time.
“We’re living in a time in which someone can lose their job or their platform for something they write. We live with this reality every day. I’m imperfect. I run my own business. I sometimes get it wrong or cross lines. But today’s climate is horrific. Terror and intimidation is part of what we’re all living through now.”
Here’s an extra passage I wrote after Feinberg’s story had been filed: “It’s an especially hard climate for journalists these days. Are we living through Invasion of the Body Snatchers? So many journalists are afraid of losing their jobs and they all understand what they have to say and not say. They all know the woke code that they have to speak in. As do I. And there’s no percentage in not playing along for the most part. I play along a lot, but every now and then I go blurp-blurp and something else comes out.”
I only regret that THR used a photo of me from my wine-drinking days. It makes my face look rounder and softer than it is these days, and my hair looks too Walkenish.
Of the five Best Actress nominees, Carey Mulligan has the most compelling narrative — portrayed a definitive #MeToo character, has been delivering ace-level performances for over a decade, weathered the Dennis Harvey Sundance review altercation. Andra Day‘s Billie Holiday is quite commanding and lived-in, but there’s no narrative as Holiday was her first substantive role (had smallish roles in Cars 3 and Marshall before this). Frances McDormand Nomadland performance is obviously top-grade, but she won her Three Billboards Oscar three years ago. Viola Davis‘s blustery Ma Rainey performance never caught on, and Vanessa Kirby‘s Pieces of a Woman performance warrants serious praise, but again — no narrative except that she kills it.
Distributor Friendo: “By today’s standards, The Father, Sound of Metal and Nomadland might as well be L’Avventura or The Seventh Seal. By calling Nomadland an “audience movie,” you almost sound like Robert Koehler and some of the others in the ascetic/pleasure-denial crowd who have basically accused Nomadland of being a sell-out version of a Kelly Reichardt movie.
“Imagine people watching these movies on streaming services, where you can easily click off after five or ten minutes if you aren’t feeling it, as opposed to seeing them in a cinema, where you’re a captive for two hours. To me, Judas and the Black Messiah and The Trial of the Chicago 7 are the closest things in the bunch to ‘audience’ movies, because they at least bring certain familiar genre trappings with them (the courtroom drama in the case of Chicago 7 and the crime drama in the case of Judas), but the rest of the Best Picture contenders? Way too ‘weird’ for most of the masses, I can guarantee.”
The four best Raging Bull scenes, in this order…Miami jail cell, “harder, harder”, big fuckin’ elephant dicks, “ya want yuh steak?” Without these four….just sayin’. My first viewing was at an all-media screening at The Beekman in mid-November 1980. I loved it, of course, but the sound was subdued, even whispery at times. The sound was no better when I caught it twice more at a couple of midtown Manhattan theatres. I never really “heard” Raging Bull until it hit DVD in the late ’90s. The Bluray sounds best of all.
Yesterday I posted a three-year-old passage from “critic friendo” about the difference between critics vs. audience films. Today he followed up with his own rundown about which 2021 Best Picture contenders are which:
Audience films: Judas and the Black Messiah, Promising Young Woman, Chicago 7 (despite being nonlinear), maybe Minari (though the subtitles are a stopper for a lot of people).
Critic films: Mank (non-linear, inside-Hollywood, b&w); The Father (too confusing and non-linear); Nomadland (not enough plot, slow, too real); Sound of Metal (a critics film despite the great performances — too oblique, forces the audience to figure out too much, that metal scene would turn a lot of viewers off).
HE response: But of course, “confusing” is exactly the point of The Father, especially from poor Tony Hopkins’ (and also the audience’s) point of view, no?
It’s very clear soon enough that we’re in the same trap — forced like Tony to grapple with dementia — confused, dumbfounded, outraged, disoriented and uncertain who or what to trust. That’s precisely the strategy.
I get what you’re saying. Or what you suspect a significant portion of the audience may be saying to themselves as they watch. That however audacious Florian Zeller’s strategy may be, it follows that the sun will never burn off the fog — that there will be no eventual sorting out of the mystery because we know there’s no cure, no solution…escape is not an option.
And so that significant portion, you’re sensing, is saying, “Okay, we get it, brilliant move on the writer-director’s part…but no thanks.”
So they’re not saying “too confusing” — they’re saying “too confining, too repressive…we get the idea but we’d rather not submit to it, thanks all the same.”
It’s not that it’s “too non-linear” but that the nature of the mental quicksand we’re stuck inside of is all too tangible…that we’re basically in the grip of a quiet, tidy and well-mannered British horror film. From a Psycho-ish perspective we’re not in the shoes of John Gavin or Vera Miles or even Janet Leigh — we’re in the shoes of crazy Tony Perkins, ”scratching and clawing” from inside his “private trap”, and yet for all of it “never budging an inch.”.
In a way poor Tony Hopkins is grappling a bad LSD trip with no hope of Thorazine. I once went through the Mother of Bad LSD Trips when I was living in Boston way back when, and while it wasn’t exactly similar to the Hopkins nightmare I did sense that I was standing right next to a manhole of madness, and that if I looked into that manhole the darkness, like some cunning beast, might sense my vulnerability and reach out and seize me and take me down into the hole, and thst once inside I’d never climb out again.
In other words The Father, to expand a bit, is an old man’s horror film.