…in well over a decade. You can’t stream it for some reason. So I bought a Canadian Bluray a week or so ago. It arrived today…162 minutes! I began watching a half-hour ago, and it’s all just flooding back in. It’s glorious, perfect, a gift. The day is saved.
Simon Wincer‘s Operation Dumbo Drop (Disney, ’95) might be the only family-friendly Disney film I’ve ever half-liked. Not a great film, but a likeable, well made effort that holds back on the cutes. And for my money Ray Liotta really scores because he plays it completely straight, and then occasionally angry to great comic effect. It definitely didn’t deserve a 31% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Danny Glover, Denis Leary, etc. Did I take part in the press junket? Yes. Have I seen it a second time over the last 25 years? No, but I could.
I saw Sofia Coppola‘s On the Rocks (A24/Apple, 10.23) about a week ago, and I’ve been waiting for the spirit to seize. But nothing’s happened, and the reason is that it’s fine as far as it goes. I didn’t dislike it and don’t feel the slightest urge to put it down. It’s an occasionally amusing, reasonably decent father-daughter relationship film (Bill Murray, Rashida Jones), but it does leave you wishing it had put a little more on the plate.
It’s a marital-suspicion dramedy (“Is my husband cheating on me?”) served in a faintly bouncy, mildly entertaining fashion…okay, sometimes more than mildly. It looks good, Coppola’s script feels smooth and assured, it looks and feels well produced and has a cool Mexican detour section toward the end (i.e., a visit to Las Alamandas Resort in Jalisco, which is between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo) and it’s a little jaunty now and then, which is fine.
But if Murray wasn’t playing the wealthy, soft-spoken, amiably rakish dad, On The Rocks probably wouldn’t work all that well. When Murray’s on screen, it’s a fun film. When he’s not, you’re waiting for him to return. The other two principals — Jones and Marlon Wayans as Jones’ successful husband — don’t have the X-factor. They’re sufficient but Murray is the only one with any real charisma.
The best scene is when a couple of Manhattan cops pull Murray over for driving recklessly in a classic red sports car (Jones is riding shotgun) and…okay, no spoilers.
Honestly? I understand that Coppola has more or less written about her own life on some level and that Jones is the stand-in and all, and that the film is self-portraiture to some degree. I get all that. But On The Rocks would’ve been better if it had been mainly about Murray and if Jones and her possibly unfaithful husband had been a side-plo of some kind.
Incidentally: Murray’s all-white hair looks perfect, but he’s also wearing a partial rug of some kind; his trademark bald spot is missing. That or he’s been to my Prague guy.
I’m still giving On The Rocks a passing grade because it’s pretty good. It never pissed me off or made me feel irritable or bored. I’m giving it an affectionate B-minus. It’s agreeable.
Hollywood Elsewhere agrees with Wolf Blitzer (“Madame Speaker, I have only the greatest respect for you…”) and disagrees with Nancy Pelosi. People can’t wait until next February for new federal stimulus checks. (Which would be what…$400 per week rather than $600?) My heart goes out to everyone who’s panicking, struggling, worrying about everything.
82% of Americans and virtually every economist agree that we needed a new relief bill weeks ago. Congress please pass this for the American people. Nancy Pelosi say yes – this is a big win for millions of families who are hurting right now. pic.twitter.com/b5mbnot9bh
— Andrew Yang🧢🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) October 12, 2020
Amy Coney Barrett regarding the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges: “I have no agenda, and I do want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference. Like racism, I think discrimination is abhorrent.”
Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono: “Sexual preference is an offensive and outdated term. It is used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. It is not. Sexual orientation is a key part of a person’s identity.”
Barrett: “I certainly didn’t mean and would never mean to use a term that would cause any offense in the LGBTQ community. If I did, I greatly apologize for that.”
I would expand the UD definition as follows: “The act of being very pretentious about how much you care about a social issue, and also about your willingness to severely punish those whose views about this or that issue are, in your judgment, insufficient in terms of exhibiting their progressive bona fides or, you know, being on the “right” side of an issue with the “right” people. Example: Indiewire‘s punitive coverage of anything related to Woody Allen.”
Sometime in the late ’70s a girlfriend and I caught a Mort Sahl set on the North Shore. I forget the name of the club but it was in Revere, Swampscott, Lynn…one of those towns. We arrived 15 minutes before showtime, and my heart stopped — the room was one-third filled, if that. I felt so badly for the poor guy, but you know what? Sahl came out and did his show as if he was playing to a packed house at Carnegie Hall. Which deeply impressed me. As I sat and listened and laughed, I was thinking “wow, nothing but class…this is how a professional plays to a nearly deserted room.” Grace under pressure, never say die, the show must go on.
They’re both saying that the Academy needs to deepsix the 4.25 Oscar telecast, primarily because there won’t be enough viewers because theatres are closed and because streaming doesn’t have that schwing and because there won’t be enough in the way of serious Oscar contenders.
They need to say that to Chloe Zhao, David Fincher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Frances McDormand, Delroy Lindo, Aaron Sorkin, Sascha Baron Cohen, etc. Go ahead, Alyssa and Richard — write or call or text these guys and say “Sorry, bruhs, but we think the Oscars should be cancelled because almost everyone will be watching your work via streaming, which makes us feel uneasy because this isn’t the way it’s always been, and because…well, we don’t want to sound callous but we don’t think your work is good or significant enough to merit awards attention.”
Image totally stolen from Sasha Stone’s Awards Daily.
Rushfield: “The question isn’t, Should they cancel the Academy Awards? The question is: What the hell can they possibly be thinking [by] not canceling it?
“The reason why,” he says, is “BECAUSE THERE ARE NO MOVIES [THAT] MORE THAN A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE HAVE SEEN! How do you have a celebration of movies when there are no movies?
“You may have noted over the past few years that Oscar’s transformation into a celebration of quirky and independent films only seen by a handful of people hasn’t exactly done wonders for the viewership. This drift has succeeded in chasing away a giant swath of Oscar’s audience, which is roughly half of its peak 20 years ago.
“Given that, how do you suppose the viewership will react when they put on a show not only celebrating films seen by a small number of people, but films seen by no one?”
HE to Rosenberg and Rushfield: Because I went to sleep dreaming life was beauty, and I woke up knowing that life is duty. Grownups aren’t allowed to go “waahhh” when things are tough. You don’t get to pull the plug on a 92-year-old annual awards show because it’s raining outside or there aren’t enough movies or there aren’t enough people in the room. You do it because you need to hold your head high and make the best of whatever the situation is…period. The torch must be held aloft. Think of the eternal flame that’s been burning over JFK’s grave for nearly 57 years. Allowing it to go out is unthinkable. The general attitude about the Oscar telecast should be no less steadfast.
Okay, maybe the lineup isn’t so hot this year for obvious reasons. Yes, it’s unfortunate that Deep Water, Dune, The French Dispatch, In the Heights, The Many Saints of Newark, No Time to Die, Top Gun: Maverick and West Side Story have been withdrawn and bumped into ’21. But only about a third of these titles, if that, had any real shot of being Oscar-nominated in whatever category.
2020 will always be remembered as a weak year, the Covid plague year…agreed. But it is what it is, and many excellent films are being streamed and shown at drive-ins, and let’s face the fact that streaming is the way things are these days and where a good portion of the business is going. Do I love this? No, I’m a theatre-and-popcorn guy, but it’s how things are.
Consider the wise words of Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone, in a 10.12 piece called “Cancel the Oscars? How About We Reimagine Them?” In a nutshell: “The Oscars are representative of the year in film. This year that means film via streaming, but it’s still the year in film. This is an opportunity to test that out because streaming is the future, like it or not. It’s also a good chance to award some women and women of color, since that also has to be dealt with. It’s also the last year where they don’t have to name ten films so it also fits in that way. They only need five.”
Variety‘s Clayton Davis has also spoken eloquently about this — the piece is called “Why Moving Ahead With the Oscars Is the Right Thing to Do.”
The weather in New York City was cold on Wednesday, 2.23.66. But that probably didn’t dissuade several hundred hearty souls from catching a film that evening. There was no pandemic (you could go anywhere, do anything!) and roughly 30 choices give or take, in large part because films hung around for months in second-run houses. No cable or streaming, of course, but theatres everywhere, including the Garrick at 152 Bleecker.
Rubber Soul was only a couple of months old. Bob Dylan‘s most recent album was Highway 61 Revisited (and Blonde on Blonde, which wouldn’t pop until 6.20.66, was still being recorded). Aftermath, the next big Rolling Stones album, was also being worked on and wouldn’t surface until 4.15.66. Only elite musicians and college students were dropping acid at the time; middle-class kids wouldn’t take the plunge until the summer of ’67 and beyond. Anti-Vietnam War currents bad begun but hadn’t manifested in waves. But things were happening; you could feel it.
Roman Polanski‘s Repulsion opened on 2.23; ditto Jack Smight‘s Harper with Paul Newman and Arthur Hiller‘s Promise Her Anything with Warren Beatty and Leslie Caron. Arthur Penn‘s The Chase had opened five days earlier (2.18) and was still heavily hyped. Daniel Mann‘s atrocious Our Man Flint had opened a month earlier. David Lean‘s Dr. Zhivago (12.22.65) was playing at Leows’ Capitol; Martin Ritt‘s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (12.16.65), an anti-James Bond spy film and deeply admired for that, was playing in neighborhood houses. Robert Mulligan‘s Inside Daisy Clover had opened at the Radio City Music Hall on the same day, and was hanging on two months hence. George Axelrod‘s Lord Love A Duck (which I’ll never, ever see) had opened on 2.21. (9)
Carol Reed‘s The Agony and the Ecstasy, which had opened in October ’65, was selling reserved seats at Leows’ State. Robert Wise‘s The Sound of Music was still at the Rivoli after nine months. Even the stodgy and elephantine My Fair Lady, which had premiered on 10.21.64, was still playing twice a day at the Criterion. (3)
Jason Robards in A Thousand Clowns, which had opened on 12.13.65, was playing here and there. Two Sidney Lumet films released the previous year, The Pawnbroker and The Hill, were still viewable. King and Country, a 1964 Joseph Losey film, was also playing, Ditto The Servant, a Losey film that had opened in England in November ’63. Ted Kotcheff‘s Life At The Top, a sequel to Room at the Top and which had opened in mid December ’65, was kicking around. John Schlesinger‘s Darling had opened stateside in August ’65, but was still playing. (7)
Also on Manhattan screens: The Ipcress File, The Shop on Main Street, Laurence Olivier‘s Othello, Pier Paolo Pasolini‘s The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Tony Richardson‘s The Loved One, Impossible on Saturday, The Flight of the Phoenix, The Battle of the Bulge, Juliet of the Spirits, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Made in Paris, Bambole. (12).
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of relationships between people from different countries and cultures, and what happens after they pair up and have to deal with basic choices and life situations that they may (and usually do) handle differently. And how the differences tend to shake out in different ways.
So today I want to talk with you about some differences between Russian and American women.
Their portraits: Both are 30-45 years old. Both live in a megalopolis (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Moscow, Saint-Petersburg). Both have a good education and have developed their careers.
The Russian woman was born and raised in USSR or Russia. The American has been born and raised in the U.S.
Let’s get started…
Russian women seem to pay more attention to their appearance: hair, makeup, clothing. As a result, they are perceived as more finely groomed.
American women don’t seem particularly concerned about how they look in everyday life. Ease and convenience seem to be more important to them. Hence unexceptional T-shirts, shorts, sneakers, minimal makeup or no makeup at all.
Personally, I once watched a disheveled American woman come to a beauty salon in pajamas and flip-flops. I can’t say that they are poorly dressed; in my opinion, just sad and somehow gray in general.
An American woman learns from a young age to position herself as a free person. Ownership of her own life is prized above all. Call it healthy selfishness.
The Russian woman needs a feeling of being protected by a man. She prefers to see herself as fragile. Sometimes this is just a pretense. The explanation is very simple: to give a man an opportunity to feel like a real man, and in exchange she wants the calming feeling of being protected.
Everything goes back to our childhoods.
Thanks to Neon and Acme for inviting Hollywood Elsewhere to last Friday’s invitational drive-in screening of Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger‘s Totally Under Control. It happened at the Vineland Drive-In in the City of Industry, which I’d never once visited in all my years here. And why the hell would I?
Under the best traffic conditions a late-night drive between West Hollywood and Industry would take 35 to 40 minutes. Alas, the screening was at 7:30 pm. We left around 6:20 pm. It took us about 90 minutes to get there. Mostly stop-and-go misery. Obviously we asked for it.
I had assured Tatiana that Gibney always delivers first-rate docs, and that visiting Industry might be a kind of exotic adventure. I can’t say that it was. Tatiana respected the film, but didn’t seem as engaged as I was. Screen-content aside the coolest thing about the screening was the close proximity of railroad tracks and watching a couple of double-decker Amtrak trains roll by.
Next time I’m invited to the Vineland, I’ll probably say “thanks but no thanks and all the best.”
I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen John Irvin‘s City of Industry (’97). Harvey Keitel, Timothy Hutton, Stephen Dorff, Famke Janssen, et. al.
Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger‘s Totally Under Control (Neon, 10.13 on demand, 10.20 on Hulu) is a smart, swiftly paced, well-organized exploration of how Donald Trump singhandedly managed to make the Covid-19 pandemic worse…make that much worse than it needed to be.
If you’ve been closely following this forehead-slapping bureaucratic farce since last February (as I have) there’s nothing exactly “new” in this 123-minute doc. But it does offer a satisfying condensation or re-review, if you will. With a lot of frank and informative talking-head commentary.
Every stupid, blind, oblivious, wrongheaded move that Trump and his executive branch flunkies made over the last eight months or so is covered. Trump’s endless lies and denials and fantasy evasions, the “lost” five-week period (late January ’20 to early March ’20) when the virus might’ve been carefully managed and at least minimized to some extent but wasn’t, ignoring the passed-along Obama playbook on dealing with a pandemic, the failure to mass-produce masks in the early stages, the lack of a coordinated federal testing program, etc.
Not to mention the hydroxychloroquine hoax, Trump’s macho aversion to wearing masks, the “liberate the states” bullshit in May-June, the failure to follow scientific protocols, disagreeing with Dr. Fauci, etc.
Trump did it, Trump did it, Trump did it, Trump did it, Trump did it, Trump did it, Trump did it. Really. “It’s a Democratic hoax”, what do the scientists know?, possible Chlorox injections, America needs to get back to work, Covid “will dissipate with the heat” and will probably disappear “like a miracle,” etc.
Key narration line: “Ignoring expert advice became an act of patriotism.”
Trump became infected a day or so after Gibney’s film wrapped, so “don’t be afraid of Covid…don’t let it dominate your life” didn’t make the cut. But Trump’s remarks to Bob Woodward last February did: “It goes through the air…that’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”
The Trumpies really could have gotten a handle on the virus early on (February) if Trump wasn’t so afraid of spooking the stock market…if they’d just appealed to everyone’s good sense and marshalled federal resources and called for tough measures early on. Like South Korea and New Zealand did, and like Italy eventually did last summer after that early scare. What a mess, what a disaster.