The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash
A solid documentary about a great musician, with passages of greatness.
Thumbnails is a roundup of brief excerpts to introduce you to articles from other websites that we found interesting and exciting. We provide links to the original sources for you to read in their entirety.—Chaz Ebert
"'The Glass Castle' Attempts to Tidy Up A Disturbing Memoir": An essential and impassioned review written by Andrew Lapin at Uproxx.
“The film dramatically reduces the specter of molestation from the book, yet leaves enough in to matter: when the parents drop the kids off with Rex’s mother for a weekend, she tries to touch Jeannette’s younger brother Brian. We get strong hints that she did the same to Rex when he was a boy. Where does that leave our understanding of these characters, then, when they continue to love and forgive Rex into adulthood even though he knowingly put his children in the care of a child molester? Why, after the grandmother dies, does Cretton never cut to Brian at the funeral, as though his reaction to the situation doesn’t matter? Why does Brian, as a meek adult played by Josh Caras, merely toast his father with, ‘He had his moments’?Remember, Spike Lee was pilloried for this same crime in ‘Red Hook Summer,’ a film that is sloppier than ‘The Glass Castle’ yet at least doesn’t try to hand-hold us through its own ugliness. Lee knew child molestation was wrong, and his film’s ‘forgiveness’ of the preacher who commits the deed could be read as a broader statement on our society’s tendency to look the other way when institutions are involved in its cover-up. You can’t even pretend something similar is going on here: Cretton’s film ends with an unabashed celebration of the Walls’ quirky, nontraditional childhoods, and all but drops the abuse story in the third act. The guilty institution in this case is not the church but the movie industry, desperate for the feels of a dark-n-juicy memoir but scared of the baggage of real humanity.”
"'Eyes Wide Shut' and the Paranoid Style in American Pop Culture": An excellent essay from Alex Sayf Cummings at Tropics of Meta.
“I recently rewatched ‘Eyes Wide Shut,’ nearly fifteen years after seeing the film on its first release. It may have been the first Kubrick film I’d ever seen, a situation akin to ‘Time Out of Mind’ being your first Dylan album. The movie was heavily promoted and the studio undoubtedly aspired to make this esoteric, idiosyncratic film a hit—Warner Bros reportedly pushed Kubrick to cast a star in the movie, noting that he hadn’t done so since Jack Nicholson way back in 1980—and the then-power couple of Cruise and Kidman seemed bankable enough. Wikipedia notes that attendance at the film dropped over its opening weekend, allegedly because of media attention to JFK Jr.’s disappearance, but an objective observer might attribute this trend to word-of-mouth from Friday night viewers bewildered by what they’d seen. As a young and not particularly perceptive viewer, I saw the film as just a weird, awkward story about one man’s attempt to compensate for his wife’s imagined infidelity by embarking on journey through a dreamlike New York of perversion and pathology. In other words, a happy family man, shaken in his marriage, decides to go out and see all the weird things that a deviant nighttime gesellschaft can offer. He eventually returns home penitent, scared by things beyond the ambit of his ordinary world, and sort-of reconciles with his wife in the midst of Christmas shopping. Looking back now, this interpretation seems radically incomplete. In the early scenes, Kubrick could not be more blunt about presenting the contrast between Cruise’s carefree, conceited life as a breast-fondling, debonair doctor and Kidman as a frustrated wife and mother whose career ambitions and libido have been severely truncated. Cruise’s character is a handsome doctor to the elite who enjoys his apartment on Central Park West as well as the gorgeous women who eagerly cling to his arm and the wealthy clients who defer to his medical authority. Throughout the film, Cruise makes things happen two ways: one, by flashing his medical license and saying ‘I’m a doctor,’ and two, by throwing money at people. (As commentator Marcus Yavith notes, Cruise’s character—‘Dr. Bill’—sounds a lot like ‘Dollar Bill’: ‘Bill is part of the upper class, and his dealings with members of the lower class are often resolved with money.’)”
“Here in the West, the Next Big Thing in vogue is IMAX. Yes, it’s existed since the late ’60s, but recently more and more filmmakers and studios have embraced the format as the key to breaking Hollywood’s blockbuster slump. And few directors have taken to it more enthusiastically than Christopher Nolan, who went so far as to hold a private IMAX screening of the first six minutes of his superhero film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012) for a number of A-list directors like Michael Bay and Edgar Wright in an attempt to prove its superiority over digital formats. ‘I think IMAX is the best film format that was ever invented,’ he explained in an interview. ‘It’s the gold standard and what any other technology has to match up to, but none have, in my opinion.’ Nolan is unique in his determination to craft films specifically designed for the all-encompassing immersion of IMAX, a determination enhanced by his fondness for high-concept, effects-heavy narratives about superheroes, astronauts, and citizen soldiers. Go into an IMAX theater and see how the screen stretches to fill your entire peripheral vision. Close your eyes and you’re swallowed by the pulsating soundtrack blasting from every angle. Plug your ears, and you can still FEEL the film as the heavy vibrations from the speakers smash and crash over your whole body. All of which is the problem for people like myself who live with Asperger’s. We are constantly on the verge of overstimulation, something we tend to self-medicate with deliberate disengagement from society into our own little worlds where we can obsess over rituals and interests that soothe us. We rebel against a universe we can’t control by cloistering ourselves into environments that we can. Some of us escape through headphones and music, some through locked doors and reading, others with monotonous, mechanical tasks that let our minds wander freely. Almost a decade ago, I discovered the power of cinema as a coping mechanism for my own Asperger’s. Watching a film is a culturally approved excuse for disengaging from the outside world for 90 minutes. You get to cut yourself off from everything and everybody by sitting in a dark theater where it’s expected that everyone will leave each other alone for the duration. Even better are movies at home or on laptops. Here you get to control the volume and picture quality; you can fast-forward or mute scenes you don’t like and rewatch scenes you do.”
“Now Mel had been, and would continue to be, as generous as any director that I’ve ever worked with. But something about the circumstances made him want to use his metaphorical light saber. Maybe it was because we were on one of our most elaborate sets, with several camera crews buzzing around us. He was the writer and the director, and a gentle giant of modern comedy wanted to give away a line that Mel had provided for him. ‘You think Pullman can make the line funny? Pullman? O.K. Back to one.’ We all went back to our start marks and ran through the three-minute sequence, crew and cast making for a lot of moving parts. After a silence following ‘Cut,’ we heard Mel say: ‘O.K. We are cutting that line. Back to one.’ Later I was disappointed that I had allowed Mel’s snap to fill me with shame and frustration. In the moment, as we all reset for another take, I must have looked like I was stewing. I felt the arm of the Mog drape around my shoulders. John leaned in. ‘Pullman, how about another doughnut?’ He continued: ‘You’d better not look so red right now. And don’t go blue on me later.’ His chuckle and wink calmed me down. I did eventually manage to recalibrate. And the next day, Mel met me with a hug. I have never forgotten John Candy’s generosity. He showed me how to be a gentle leader. He lightened my load. He had my back.”
"Remembering 'Back to the Beach,' the Beach Party Movie's Last Hurrah": Vanity Fair's Donald Liebenson dives into the story behind the 30-year-old cult favorite.
“More than two decades later, ‘Back to the Beach’ was not as easy a pitch, Frankie Avalon says. Orion, the company that owned the rights to the ‘Beach’ films, ‘looked at it and said, ‘We don’t understand this kind of a film.’ So they put it in turnaround, and I kept banging on doors.’ The film’s fortunes changed over a dinner with Avalon and his wife, Kay, at Nicky Blair’s, a famed, now shuttered, Sunset Boulevard celebrity haunt. Dining across the room were Frank Mancuso, then the head of production at Paramount, and his wife, Faye—who, as it turns out, Avalon had brought on stage at a concert when she was a teenager. ‘She loved Frankie,’ Gilardi says. ‘We went over and I said to Faye, ‘You [and Frankie] haven’t been formally introduced. She asked Frankie what he was up to, and he said, ‘We’re trying to negotiate with Paramount for ‘Back to the Beach.’ She said to Frank, ‘You’ve got to make this picture.’ Another Gilardi client, James Komack—he created the TV series ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’ and ‘Chico and the Man’—was originally signed on to write and direct the film. But he departed the project over creative differences with the studio: ‘They wanted to camp it up and I felt it wasn’t necessary,’ he told The Los Angeles Times prior to the film’s release. According to the same article, 17 writers contributed to the script. ‘The funny thing is that with all the scriptwriters we had, the first day of shooting we only had four pages of script,’ Avalon says. ‘We had new pages every single day.’”
A tribute to Robert Forster.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A short film about two friends trying to get through a period of loss.
The experts sound off on what films to watch in honor of Indigenous Peoples' Day.