I finally got to watch Stephen Elliott’s directorial debut last night. I’d been anticipating it for a while as a fan of his site, The Rumpus. But when I read the reviews, I was turned off slightly and I waited.
After sitting through the whole thing, I have no idea why it got such terrible reviews. Maybe because it’s not the classic “descent into hell” that viewers might expect of a story centered around a young girl entering the world of porn. Nor is it this fantastic 1970s sexual playground of freaks and outcasts like in Boogie Nights. It’s actually pretty down-to-earth, pretty real. Not sugarcoated, but not totally gritty, either. I liked watching the characters, and I cared about all of them. The acting was great from everyone—Ashley Hinshaw, Dev Patel, Lili Taylor, Heather Graham, James Franco, Diane Farr and others. I think the direction and cinematography were good, too. For a debut, I think it’s a pretty strong one. And for something from IFC Films, I think it’s exactly what I’d expect from them. Good story, well-acted fleshed-out characters, in a world outside the mainstream.
Yeah, maybe it could’ve gone deeper into one of the peripheral stories, like Heather Graham and Diane Farr’s. And maybe something really “terrible” could’ve happened to Ashley Hinshaw to heighten the drama. But I think it tells a real story, and the fact that it was co-written by Lorelei Lee, who’s a porn actress, gives it a real credibility.
Finally, after decades, and a discarded letter from Kerouac to Marlon Brando asking him to star, somebody made On the Road into a film. I watched it last night, and I made it through the whole thing, which is shocking. I didn’t think I’d make it to the 10th minute. But what propelled the film for me was three things: Viggo Mortensen as the Burroughs character, Kirsten Dunst as the Carolyn Cassady character, and the shots of “the road,” which may or may not have even been in the U.S. and Mexico. (I think the director Walter Salles used Canada and Argentina as stand-ins.) I read an interview with Carolyn Cassady today (she was 89 at the time) where she said the actors they cast to play the Kerouac and Neal Cassady characters were “wimpy” compared to the strong, athletic men these two were. And she said Garret Hedlund was boring and self-absorbed when he came to see her, reading her pages from his own journal. He’s probably the weakest link in this film. Each time he came on screen, I winced. And he looks nothing like Cassady. I was thinking he could’ve at least combed his hair the same way, into a pompadour, or put some kind of pomade in. Something to make him appear authentic. He smirks through this movie, whereas the Neal Cassady I’d seen in footage seemed humble, soft-spoken.
Sam Riley as Kerouac is a little better, but as Carolyn said, he looks nothing like Kerouac. Neither of these actors appear as good-looking as these men were in the ’40s. Riley does do a good job of emulating Kerouac’s speaking voice in the voiceovers of text, though. But why does every film on the Beats have to have text voiceover? Howl did the same thing. It’s never said with the same emotion it holds on the page, or read by its original writer, so let it go, screenwriters/directors/executive producers.
The Ginsberg character was also wince-worthy in this thing, and what happened to Kristen Stewart’s lines? Did they just cut all of them and put her in bed giving handjobs or blow jobs? Amy Adams was good in her brief time as Joan Vollmer, Burroughs’ amphetamine-addicted wife, scraping lizards off trees in the middle of the night. Elisabeth Moss was also good in her brief time as Galatea Dunkel/Helen Hinkle. This movie would’ve been great if the two main characters were subtracted and it was left to the women and Viggo to carry.
We’re playing a fundraiser for filmmaker David Field along with good buddies, Tyburn Saints. The event is called The Other Half—Creative Networking Event. Starts at 6, goes ’til 10, 141 West 28th Street, 5th Floor in a loft space. Free whisky and beer with your $20 donation, and we’ll be going on at 7. This’ll be our first show of the night, before gunning it over to Otto’s for the surf-rock shindig at midnight. Come to both!
I watched this movie months ago, and for some reason, it’s hitting me this week. I don’t even remember it that well, other than to say it was about the breakup of a marriage, an affair, and suicide attempts. The one scene that sticks out for me is when Rachel Weisz is in the back of the car with her estranged husband. It’s night, and he gives her a book of sonnets she always loved. But it was more than that. There was a finality about their marriage, and when she says thank you, it’s as if she’s saying, “Thank you for taking care of me all those years.” This movie is DOWN, like way down. But it was so compelling. And that scene seemed to sum it up for me. I just keep thinking back to it.
I finished part 2 of George Harrison: Living in the Material World last night. What can you say about it? The documentary was all over the place after The Beatles phase of George’s life, because George had so many different interests. There was racing with Jackie Stewart, movie producing with the guys from Python, The Traveling Wilburys and lots of Indian music. Also, quite a bit of gardening and trips to tropical places like Fiji. The 1999 attack that almost killed him. The death of John Lennon. George as a solo artist losing his voice on tour in the ’70s. Clapton taking Harrison’s wife. Olivia and Dhani. I can’t really say any of it was my “favorite” or was a particular highlight. It was all one big highlight. This guy LIVED. The only thing I wish I could’ve seen was Bob Dylan talking about George. But we get home movie footage inside and outside the studio of the Wilburys, and interviews with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, so there you have it.
My bandmate, Julian Rozzell, is appearing in the Alec Duffy-directed play of the John Cassevetes film Shadows, until November 12. It’s at the Collapsable Hole Theater in Brooklyn, every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights ’til that date. Details below and tickets here.
Hoi Polloi: John Cassavetes’ “Shadows”
The Collapsable Hole
The OBIE-winning theater company Hoi Polloi (“Three Pianos”) presents the first-ever staged version of Shadows, the collaboratively-created John Cassavetes film considered a watershed in the birth of American independent cinema. Originally released in 1959, the film depicts lean and hungry artists during the Beat Generation years in New York City, offering an unsparing view of racial and sexual conflict at the height of the Eisenhower era. For this theatrical version, director Alec Duffy (“Three Pianos,” “Murder in the Cathedral”) turns The Collapsable Hole into a raucous apartment party, with the action taking place in and around the audience. The cast includes Mikeah Ernest Jennings, Rick Burkhardt, Julian Rozzell Jr., Paola Di Tolla, Dustin Fontaine, Duane Boutte, Jason Craig and Jessica Jelliffe with music by Burkhardt, Ezra Gale and Steven Leffue. Set design by Andreea Mincic, lighting by Stephen Arnold and costumes by Becky Lasky.
||Thursday Oct 20, 2011 8:00 PM
||Saturday Nov 12, 2011 8:00 PM
||The Collapsable Hole (View Venue)
146 Metropolitan Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Last night I watched Mike Nichols’ film adaptation of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22. I was surprised by how well the spirit of the book and most of its great dialogue were preserved, and how beautiful the movie looked, and how seemingly unstructured (like the book) it was, and how good Alan Arkin is as Yossarian. There are a lot of great performances to go along with him, too, from Orson Welles to Martin Sheen to Bob Newhart to even Art Garfunkel.
Last week, Nichols, Robert Gottlieb (who edited the book) and writer Christopher Buckley (a close friend of Heller’s) all got together with Charlie Rose to talk about it here. This year is the 50th anniversary of the novel’s publication. Open Culture also picked up on this here.
I saw Drive this past weekend. This review says it all.