I’m at the Amsterdam airport, my plane for Nice leaves about three hours from now, and writing a WIRED item about this no-big-deal fact is, no argument, lame. And yet…I’m sitting in the “communication centre” on the second floor, and for 10 Euros you can get a wireless hookup for 24 hours, and it’s awfully damn nice to plug in right away on foreign soil and use your laptop as a U.S.-based phone. I’m referring to Vonage’s Soft Phone software, which lets you call the States for a flat fee of $10 for 500 minutes. It works fine as long as you have a decent set of headphones with a microphone.
I don’t have narcolepsy, but I can drop off any time, anywhere. It happened yesterday in the midst of a short trip to visit my local mechanic. I was driving east on Melrose when I thought of a mistake I wanted to fix on a recently posted story. So I pulled over and stopped in a legal white parking zone, and started to edit. I felt a slight drooping urge and closed my eyes. 20 minutes later I came to; I was shocked to discover how long I’d been out. The car had been running the whole time with the a.c. on. Weird to wake from a nap you hadn’t really “planned” to take in the first place.
The basic drill in the two Quiet Place films is that making the slightest sound can lead to terrible death. Because the idiotic, fang-toothed, gaping-cranial-plate crab monsters, constantly on the prowl for humans (not to eat but merely to kill), have highly attuned hearing, and all you have to do is drop a pair of scissors on the floor to put yourself in harm’s way. And so your entire life is about “shishhhhh” — be careful, step lightly, quiet as a mouse.
This is my life, in a sense, every night in West Hollywood.
After 10 pm or thereabouts I go into Quiet Place mode for fear of rousing a certain light sleeper in a nearby bedroom. The slightest jarring sound will result in a hellish response. The crack of a triple-A battery falling off the coffee table and onto the wood floor…the accidental clinking of a glass or the rattle of cutlery in the kitchen or the unwrapping of a loaf of bread…even the creaking of the floorboards in certain areas of the living room will lead to terrible repercussions. The punishment can happen straight off or sometimes the next morning, when your failure to maintain absolute radio silence the night before will be topic #1.
Due to no fault of their own light sleepers are unable to recover once woken up, you see, and their mood the following day, trust me, is inevitably sour and sullen. Light sleepers float on the surface of the pond, and woe betide anyone who rouses them from fragile slumber.
Deep sleepers like myself sink to the bottom of the pond, and are generally oblivious to odd glass-clinking or battery-dropping sounds. I can sleep anywhere, in almost environment. I can lie down on the floor of a carpeted airport lounge and nod off in less than two or three minutes.
Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon‘s The Bourne Ultimatum opened a little more than 13 years ago. What’s changed since? How are things different culturally, cinematically, politically? I’ll tell you what’s different. In the below clip (1:35) Julia Styles‘ Nicky Parsons character tackles a North African bad guy (Joey Ansah‘s “Desh Bouksani”) in a Tangier apartment, but is quickly slugged and thrown to the floor. End of resistance.
Why? Because Nicky is no match for the guy. She gives it hell but isn’t strong or aggressive enough, or sufficiently skilled.
That shit would not fly today. In The Bourne Ultimatum was being shot right now Styles’ character would get into a serious martial-arts slugfest with the Desh guy. Full-on Bruce Lee stuff. No way would the Khmer Rouge allow her to just get slugged and tossed. Women are just as physically formidable as guys these days. New era, new rules…right?
I can’t decide which adjectives or catch phrases to use in this review of Paul Greengrass ‘s The Bourne Ultimatum (Universal, 8.3). I’m really kinda stuck. Pulse-pounding, edge-of-your-seat, bobsled, warp-speed, heart-in-your-throat…how many hundreds of times have I read those terms? It’s gotten so they don’t mean very much.
But this final Bourne flick does, I feel, “mean” something. That is, apart from the fact that all I could say for the first five or ten minutes after coming out of last night’s screening was “whoa” and “wow.”
The Bourne Ultimatum is, naturally, one steroid orgasm action blast after another, but that’s expected. What else could it be with those two super-Bourne‘s before it? So let’s try and quantify. I think it’s an action movie milestone in two ways. One, by pushing the velocity-junkie aesthetic to new super-pleasurable extremes. And two, by being so good at this go-fast game that you don’t care that those hallowed dramatic substances — character brushstrokes, echoes, deep-down emotion, dialogue that addresses something besides story points. — are all but absent. You just don’t care. You’re in adrenaline heaven.
The best analogy I can think of is William Friedkin‘s subway-chase sequence in The French Connection, which lasted…what?…12 or 13 minutes? The Bourne Ultimatum runs 111 minutes and it has, at the most, 12 or 13 minutes of down time. The basic action-movie manual says you’re supposed to let the audience catch a breath between “musical numbers.” Ultimatum has a few of these, short ones, but they’re all assessment scenes about what just happened or what may be coming ’round the bend. You never feel as if Greengrass is downshifting to any serious degree (i.e., no sensitive love scenes, no “I’m tired and I need to sleep,” no talking softly while cooking in the kitchen).
HE to NYC Journo Pally: I didn’t get around to watching episode #1 of Perry Mason until a couple of nights ago. It’s an unpleasant sit. Right away I was…well, not repelled but rolling my eyes. Grubby gumshoe, down at the heels, dark vibes, rotely cynical. The writing feels lazy, cheap, second-hand…a long way from Chinatown.
Was the color palette drained or subdued? Actually that’s me — I was drained and subdued. But the images are…I dunno, dim and mucky.
Odious, ugly, distasteful characters being boring, speaking throwaway dialogue (written by series creators Rolin Jones and Ron Fitzgerald), and occasionally bringing pain (or enduring it) in ugly, thoughtless ways.
Inwardly I was moaning “lemme outta here…I can’t watch an hour of this, much less eight episodes’ worth.” But I stuck it out because suffering is part of my job.
This is a period miniseries (set in 1931 Los Angeles) determined to cover you in a noirish atmosphere that emphasizes non-hygienic gunk. Perry Mason, an alcoholic private investigator who’s way too sloppy and stumbling to work as an assistant to J.J. Gittes, is…well, I’ve said it. Living in a fog, a poor judge of character and temperament, separated from his wife and son, a traumatized World War I veteran blah blah.
The story kicks off when grubby Mason is hired by a rich LA businessman to investigate the kidnapping of Charlie Dodson, a baby who turned up dead with his eyes stitched open blah blah.
I really don’t care for Matthew Rhys and that dour, doleful vibe of his, which was a problem in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and is even more of one here. Those dark beady eyes and that small-shouldered frame, those dishrag T-shirts he wears, that tight curly hair and especially that ridiculous two-week beard stubble. Only rummies and hobos walked around with a prominent beard stubble in the 1930s. It’s completely nonsensical that a detective looking to maintain a certain professional appearance would look like that.
Random beefs include (a) Mason taking sex snaps of an obese actor who pays to see his own films in a public theatre?, (b) occasionally sadistic violence, (c) Why is Mason in an odd sexual relationship with that overweight, middle-aged Hispanic woman (Veronica Falcon)? And why would she want to have sex with him? And why does she want to buy his home for $6K? Why would he want to sell?, (d) Mason’s home is next to a small private airport (one of only two elements I liked atmosphere-wise — possibly Van Nuys Airport in SF Valley?) and apparently owns a pair of underfed cows, (e) I also respected the decision to show us the Bunker Hill funicular (also visible in Robert Towne’s Ask The Dust and Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly).
But the idea of sitting through seven more episodes of this sordid series…God!
NYC Journo Pally to HE: “Stay with it. I agree that the first episode is just dumping a can of paint on the floor. But the colors take shape in one of the best second episode turnarounds in recent memory. From there the dense plotting and Chinatown light vibe sinks in. Stay on the case.”
Update: Hollywood Elsewhere’s Toronto-bound Air Canada flight arrived at 5:30 am. Currently sitting on UP Express train, heading for Union Station.
Earlier: HE’s plane leaves LAX at 10:15 pm, and will touch down at Pearson Airport just before 6 am. I’ll probably be at the shared pad (an 11th floor, two-bedroom place about eight blocks north of the Toronto Lightbox, a block or two west of University Ave.) by 8 am or thereabouts.
Late this afternoon I submitted to Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Carne y Arena, a six-and-a-half-minute virtual reality trip that simulates with all-encompassing realism what Mexican immigrants often go through while attempting to cross the United States border in the Southwestern desert region. It was my first virtual-reality-plus experience (not just sight and sound but a realistic vibe and an atmosphere that I was walking around in barefoot), and I was so knocked out I’m returning next week for a second go-round.
I took off my shoes and socks, strolled into a red-lighted sound stage with a floor covered in sand, put on a virtual reality backpack and headset and…bing, there I was. Or there it all was. The headset screen was circular and not CinemaScope-like as I’d expected, but I was suddenly standing in the pre-dawn desert amid the sloping mounds and cactus and slightly damp morning air. Then a small group of immigrants, led by a “coyote”, approached in the semi-darkness.
A few seconds later an overhead chopper approached, and then a blinding light hit my eyes. Border guards pulled up in a pair of SUVs, shouting and aiming their weapons and telling me to get the fuck down on my knees. I put my hands up and dropped to the ground, looking around and behind and all over. Then I got back up and started roaming around in a crouched combat position, feeling like Charlie Sheen or Willem Dafoe in Platoon. Then I got yelled at again: “Down on your knees…hit the ground…now!”
In short, within seconds I had forgotten the tech aspects and fallen into the reality of it. It wasn’t a viewing experience — it was a being experience. You can do a 360 any time to see what’s happening here or there. There were dozens of things I could have done including (I assume) challenge the guards and tell them to back off or say “yo…my personal hotspot isn’t working…do you know where I can find a reasonably decent wifi signal?” Mostly I crouched and watched and just took it all in. I was half-expecting to get shot at any moment. Which would have actually been cool, especially if the VR assistant had punched me in the chest at the exact moment the muzzle flash appeared.
Carne y Arena is an all-CG creation but sourced from actual footage with real actors. It was easily the most immersive, head-turning viewing I’ve ever sampled, tasted, felt and touched. And yet it also delivered in emotional terms, prompting me to feel compassion for immigrants all over. So yes, I now know a little bit about what it’s like to go through something like this for real. I felt intimidated, fearful. But I have to say that I simply loved the primal juice of it. I especially liked walking around that big desert sandbox barefoot.
Carne y Arena director Alejandro G. Inarritu, inside viewing hangar at the Cannes Mandelieu Airport — Thursday, 5.19, 3:35 pm.
Whenever I’m in any kind of tough spot or tight corner, I always say to myself, “How would Steve McQueen handle this if it was happening in Bullitt?” This is truly the basis and the reasoning behind most of my public behaviors — I pretend I’m Frank Bullitt and act accordingly. But let’s take this idea to the next step and imagine something else. We’re on that Pan Am jet at the end of Bullitt, waiting to depart San Francisco Int’l airport, and instead of Albert “Johnny Ross” Renick sitting in that window seat it’s Bullitt, off to Italy and a romantic rendezvous with Jacqueline Bissett.
But suddenly a couple of security guys come up the aisle and tell Bullitt that his ticket is invalid, and that he’ll have to leave his seat and catch another flight. Bullitt argues, shakes his head, refuses to leave. The security guys finally grab him and yank him out of his seat, and this is how Bullitt responds. Two questions: If Bullitt had made these sounds when the security guys grab him, what would happen to McQueen’s super-stud image with moviegoers and how popular would Bullitt have been at the box-office?
Imagine that scene in The Big Sleep when Humphrey Bogart‘s Philip Marlowe is talking to John Ridgely‘s Eddie Mars inside Arthur Geiger’s Laurel Canyon home. Mars calls in his boys, Pete and Sydney, and tells them to frisk Marlowe. But Marlowe flinches when Pete starts searching and before you know it they’re punching each other on the floor. Except Pete lands a couple of good ones and Marlowe gets rattled and starts howling. Be honest — how would this scene affect Bogart’s reputation as a chain-smoking, two-fisted tough guy?
Charlton Heston‘s Judah Ben-Hur is sitting pensively in the belly of a Roman battleship as Jack Hawkins‘ Quintus Arrius inspects the crew. Something about Ben-Hur intrigues Arrius. To test his character Hawkins lashes the oarsman’s back with a whip, and Heston, to Hawkins’ surprise, reacts with a series of screams. If Heston had howled like a little bitch, would he have won the Best Actor Oscar and would Ben-Hur have won for Best Picture?
Wikipage excerpt #1: “Chesley Burnett ‘Sully’ Sullenberger (born 1.23.51) is a retired airline captain and aviation safety consultant. He was hailed as a hero when he successfully landed US Airways Flight 1549 upon NYC’s Hudson River on 1.15.09, after the aircraft was disabled by striking a flock of Canadian geese during its initial climb out of LaGuardia Airport. All of the 155 passengers and crew aboard the aircraft survived.”
Wikipage excerpt #2: “In a 60 Minutes interview, Sully was quoted as saying that the moments before the crash were ‘the worst, sickening, pit-of-your-stomach, falling-through-the-floor feeling’ that he had ever experienced. Speaking with Katie Couric, Sully said: ‘One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”
Wikipage excerpt #3: Sullenberger testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’s Subcommittee on Aviation of the Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure on February 24, 2009, that his salary had been cut by 40 percent, and that his pension, like most airline pensions, was terminated and replaced by a ‘PBGC’ guarantee worth only pennies on the dollar.
“Sullenberger cautioned that airlines were ‘under pressure to hire people with less experience. Their salaries are so low that people with greater experience will not take those jobs. We have some carriers that have hired some pilots with only a few hundred hours of experience…there’s simply no substitute for experience in terms of aviation safety.’ Sully also mentioned his pay cut in a 10.13.09 appearance on The Daily Show.”
I made a careless mistake in booking last weekend’s round trip to NYC, and for this I was made to endure 15 hours of travel yesterday — that’s how long it took door to door. The mistake was in failing to realize I had accidentally booked a return trip that stopped off in Las Vegas.
The departure of the Vegas to LAX plane was delayed by 90 minutes, and that meant sitting in McCarran Airport for roughly four hours. Touched down in L.V. around 7:30 pm, didn’t leave for LAX until 11:30 pm. I ate a salad, did some writing and crashed on the McCarran floor for about 45 minutes.
Instead of taking a Metro North train into Manhattan followed by an A train voyage out to JFK, which can take a little more than two hours if the Gods are with you, I decided to take a Red Dot limousine from a Fairfield hotel to JFK, which took about 135 minutes or about 45 minutes longer than expected. I left the Fairfield house at 1:15 pm to catch the limo departure at 1:40 pm.
JFK was swarming. Thanks to Red Dot I only had about 90 minutes before the JFK-to-Vegas flight left at 5:20 pm, and it was hellish enduring the long-ass lines and TSA security crap.
Again, the LV-to-LAX flight left around 11:30 pm. Between McCarran and LAX tarmac delays I finally exited the plane around 12:45 or 12:50 am. The cab got me back to my place around 1:30 am, or 4:30 am NY time — a tad more than 15 hours after I left to catch the Red Dot limo.
“…won’t be back for many a day…my heart is down, my head is turnin’ round, I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town.” It’s raining cats and dogs in Miami now, and somehow this simple, refreshing meteorological event has caused a delay in the departure of my American flight back to Los Angeles. I hadn’t been to the Miami area since the late ’80s before my just-concluded visit to the Key West Film Festival. I’d forgotten how warm and moist and soothing the tropical air can feel, and how transporting some of the aromas are. I’m essentially saying that nature has a stronger presence down here. I’m thinking I need to visit Cuba sometime soon. Perhaps the rapidly-approaching Havana Film Festival (12.3 to 12.15)? Three days ago I met a documentarian who said he’s been to Cuba a few times and knows several people in the Havana film community…maybe.
A beach party was held under the palm trees prior to last night’s Key West Film Festival awards ceremony.
People need to treasure each and every time they get to walk on a tarmac before or after a flight. Because it’s one of those alive-on-the-planet experiences that rarely happen these days.
I just had one of the most relaxing naps of the whole Key West trip on the floor at Miami International Airport, next to gate D44. I prepared my bedding (black leather computer bag, canvas KWFF bag), laid down and caught a full hour’s worth of zees, and felt pretty great after waking. Sometimes the simplest things can turn your day around.
Last night’s British Airways flight from JFK to Heathrow was 35% to 40% full, if that. I had an entire middle row to myself so I stretched out on the floor for some zees. Three pillows, three blankets. Not very comfortable (I slept maybe two and a half or three hours) but simply lying flat was wonderful. My legs were delighted. I’m going to remember this henceforth — always fly British Airways redeye to London on Tuesday. In ’83 or ’84 I had an entire middle row to myself — I put up the armrests and laid across four seats — perfect. In the ’30s and ’40s airlines used to have sleeper cots with curtains in first class.
Heathrow Airport — Wednesday, 2.5, 8:40 am.