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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Friday…

It’s been one of those week… enormous highs… some really aggravating lows…

Anyway, the one sure bet this weekend… if you like to be scared… is Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark. It does what it does rather beautifully.

Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground is a movie, in many ways, about ambivalence… so the movie is a little ambivalent. But compelling and thoughtful and will leave you with something to talk about afterwards, whether you are a lover of the film or not.

Our Idiot Brother is light and easy. Good performances. If you want a smile, but don’t expect a laugh riot, not a bad way to spend a couple of hours getting out of the heat or the wet or the both.

Chasing Madoff should piss you off and will piss you off.

37 Responses to “Friday…”

  1. matthew says:

    All I know is that if the MPAA told Del Toro that Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark had to be rated R because it was toooo scaaaary, then they’re a bunch of fucking pussies. Talking rodents with forks? C’mon.

  2. Not David Bordwell says:

    I’d admonish “spoiler alert,” matthew, if that weren’t exactly how they’re selling it now.

    Didn’t the teasers hide the actual menace? Thought that was more effective.

  3. Sideshow Bill says:

    count me among those who was traumatized by the original DBAOTD in the 70s (I’m 40). I think what really sealed the deal is the ending. My young mind wasn’t used to…

    SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT DON’T GET BITCHY IF YOU READ THIS

    …the woman not being saved by the man. I was already used to formula. When Kim Darby got dragged into that furnace and the movie ended it rattled me. Cheesy now but the ending is still gutsy.

    END SPOILER END SPOILER END SPOILER END SPOILER

    Curious to see it tomorrow, and if it retains something resembling the original climax.

  4. matthew says:

    Well, I apologize if that’s a spoiler. I do have a habit of conflating teasers with actual films, but yeah, they’ve shown a decent look at the creatures in the trailers IIRC.

  5. Joe Leydon says:

    Warner Archive Collection is releasing the original Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark TV movie. Maybe this means some of those other 90-minute TV-movie treasures from the ’70s soon will be available.

  6. movieman says:

    “DBAOTD” is a movie that my nine year old self would have absolutely adored.
    It’s wonderfully atmospheric and deliciously spooky/creepy in an old-fashioned, non-gross out sort of way.
    I have no idea why it got branded with an “R” rating. I’m guessing that adolescent Movieman could have seen the exact same film at a downtown movie palace back in the late 1960s–and it would have been rated “M.”
    At its best (particularly in its complex portrayal of the female characters), “Idiot Brother” reminded me of the great films of Nicole Holofcener. (High praise in my book.)
    But I’m wondering if it should have been given a “specialized” release rather than a saturation break. The ‘plexers I saw it with seemed genuinely puzzled, even somewhat turned off by its indie eccentricities/rhythms.
    I’m guessing the same fate will probably befall “Dirty Girl” if Weinstein gives it a similar release this fall.
    Still, I’m feeling a little grateful that the dog days of August could have produced two such distinctive (and superior) entertainments in the same weekend-before-Labor-Day-weekend.

  7. arisp says:

    DOA for all of these films this weekend, considering the manic HYSTERIA over this now tropical storm over the Northern East coast.

  8. Sideshow Bill says:

    That’s on my “must buy” list, Joe. Gargoyles and Dark Night Of The Scarecrow are the other 2 70s TV movies that jump to mind (Scarecrow is on dvd, I think. Not sure about Gargoyles). Need to brainstorm what else would be great to have from that era.

  9. JKill says:

    The little-me would’ve loved DBAOTD and thought it was was awesome (as I do now) and been absolutely terrified.

  10. movieman says:

    JKill- Glad you share my nostalgia-spiked enthusiasm for DBAOTD.
    And don’t you agree that the “R” rating was flat-out silly?

  11. JKill says:

    Movieman, yes, especially in retrospect. While watching it I sort of wasn’t that surprised because it’s quite intense and the terror is mostly directed at a child, but outside the experience of the movie there’s nothing there that hasn’t been in PG-13 or even PG horror films before and the whole thing is kind of macabrely tasteful and classy, and it’s especially strange considering all of the very violent pseduo-R, PG-13 action movies that get released on the regular. The fact that HANNA, for example, has a lower rating than DBAOTD is strange to say the least.

  12. movieman says:

    The fact that I was able to flash back to my childhood while watching it, and imagine seeing the EXACT same film on a double-feature with, say, “The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze” at one of the late, great 2,000+ seat downtown movie palaces where I cut my Movieman teeth, speaks volumes for the relative mildness of the horror violence.
    Like classic Val Lewton, everything is conveyed in the spooky, beautifully calibrated atmospherics; and it’s the suggestion of terror that creates post-screening nightmares–particularly if you’re an impressionable kid like I was who even got freaked out by Lon Chaney Jr.’s transformation into the “Wolf Man.”
    Pretty sad that “DBA” got a “C MINUS” CinemaScore rating (“Idiot” didn’t fare much better with a tepid “C PLUS”) while the thoroughly mediocre/”didn’t-I-just-see-this-movie-LAST-weekend?” “Colombiana” somehow managed to rate an “A MINUS” with the hoi polloi.

  13. JKill says:

    I saw that reported Cinemascore over at Deadline, movieman, and I was flabbergasted that DBAOTD would have poor word of mouth, since I assumed it would play great and be a real crowd pleaser. I’m not sure what else people could be asking for or wanting when it comes to a fun, spooky horror film…

    I haven’t seen it yet (will probably check it out on Sunday) but I’m not surprised that OUR IDIOT BROTHER would have a lower score since it’s the kind of off-beat indie marketed as a mainstream comedy (like CYRUS) that throws unsuspecting people off. In that case it’s probably not even that people were against the film but that their expectations were out of whack with the actual product.

  14. movieman says:

    …and the CinemaScore raters’ pronounced enthusiasm for something as thoroughly disposable and rote a “product” (since that’s all it really is) as “Colombiana” definitely makes you wonder why anyone bothers making good movies since few people can apparently tell the dif between gold and dross anymore.
    As I said earlier, Weinstein may have erred by giving “Idiot” a saturation break rather than nurturing it in artsy sites (Searchlight’s trad’l game plan). It’s kind of like what happened (uncomprehending general auds being blindsided by a film’s quirky indie sensibility when, sheep-like, they were expecting the same old/same old) with the wonderful “Extract” a few summers back.

  15. yancyskancy says:

    Maybe I’m more of the hoi polloi than I like to admit, but I want to see COLOMBIANA, simply because I really enjoyed several of those Besson-produced actioners (especially BANLIEUE 13, UNLEASHED and TAKEN). Glenn Kenny liked it, so maybe there’s something there.

    And sorry, movieman, as much as I love Mike Judge, I can see why people didn’t find EXTRACT ‘wonderful’ enough to make it a hit. It’s a frustrating experience, IMO: solid set-up, quirky material, superb cast–but executed in a low-key tone with a measured pace that eventually just tried my patience. Sometimes I’d be watching a scene and think, “This would be at least 20% better if done with 20% more energy.” Still, even a middling Judge effort has more personality than the general run of studio comedies. Can’t wait for the new batch of Beavis and Butthead episodes.

    Sounds like I need to sneak out and see DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. My girlfriend used to love horror movies, but a few years ago she suddenly started finding most of them too intense to watch. I think the turning point was WRONG TURN — she loved it, but almost had a heart attack in the theater. Now I either have to skip them or catch them on my own.

  16. movieman says:

    Yancy- Your description of Judge sounds an awful lot like Albert Brooks, lol. As much as I’ve enjoyed Judge’s films (to date), Brooks is one of my reigning auteur gods.
    I still remember a review of “Modern Romance” I wrote for my college paper in which I made the case for “MR” being superior to “Annie Hall.”
    I’ve since learned to relax, get off my auteurist high horse and admit that both are timeless, laugh-til-you-cry/cry-til-you-laugh masterpieces.

  17. anghus says:

    the hurricane left. about half my town is out of power, but i’m in the half that didn’t lose it. hopefully the movie theaters will be open and i can see Dont Be Afraid of the Dark.

  18. Don R. Lewis says:

    I was kinda disappointed in DBAOTD. It started off really strong and then just kind of devolved into GREMLINS meets that Trilogy of Terror vignette with Karen Black (which incidentally scared the SHIT out of me as a kid).

    I thought DBAOTD really missed some opportunities to up the ante and kind of pussed out. I don’t want to go into spoiler areas but there could have been more done with that set-up. I also never really felt the threat was real and in the end, the film felt like minor del Toro.

  19. yancyskancy says:

    movieman: Coincidentally enough, I rewatched most of MODERN ROMANCE again just last night on one of the premium channels (even though it had already started and was in the wrong aspect ratio). I really love that movie, and yeah, I can see how the phrases “low key tone” and “measured pace” fit it as well, but what can I tell ya? EXTRACT didn’t reach the same kind of heights for me. I think it’s possible I was simply expecting a little more from Judge, considering he got to make the movie he wanted. I thought IDIOCRACY worked better, even with compromises and an unsupportive studio.

    I’m hoping to get another look at Brooks’ great LOST IN AMERICA on Netflix Instant before it expires on 9/1.

    (Oh, and I agree ANNIE HALL is great, too.)

  20. Joe Leydon says:

    Lines from Modern Romance I continue to quote:

    While looking at Rolodex: “I’ve got so many friends.”

    Phone rings: “Mr. Popularity!”

  21. JKill says:

    I’ve always found it appropriate that Kubrick allegedly found MODERN ROMANCE to be a masterpiece because it shares that strange and strangely perfect storytelling structure SK employed often where things play out in long, masterful set pieces or cinematic units.

  22. yancyskancy says:

    Joe: My favorites include the exchange in which Mary (Kathryn Harrold) draws a blank when Brooks mentions that they’re in a “no-win situation.” His explanation of the phrase: “You know, Vietnam. This.”

    And when she leaves the house in a dress he finds too provocative, he says: “There are people who only rape. That’s all they do! They’re out there.”

  23. David Poland says:

    How could you ask anymore of a movie than the Trilogy of Terror little guy with a knife?

  24. Joe Leydon says:

    Damn, whatever happened to Kathryn Harrold? I admit: I thought she was smokin’ hot. But I also thought she was a fine actress, and demonstrated A-plus comic chops in Modern Romance.

  25. LexG says:

    The main thing I remember Kathryn Harrold from was THE SENDER, which was my first exposure to ubiquitous character actor Zjeelekkkjlkklkkco Ivanek, who’s somehow enjoyed an awesome 30-yr career despite the most impenetrable name of any human ever.

    I remember THE SENDER mostly because it premiered on HBO the same month in 1983 as Halloween III, First Blood and Eddie Murphy Delirious.

    Amazingly it was directed by the guy who directed Battlefield Earth. Wow this was a riveting post, but there you go. Next up I will name-check that cattle-killing movie that Alan Rudolph did with JoBeth Williams, where random stretches were filmed in Michael Myers first-person cam.

    Anyway, didn’t Harrold end up having a huge part on Larry Sanders Show?

  26. Joe Leydon says:

    JoBeth Williams: Another hottie. The ’80s was a good time for smokin’ brunettes.

  27. film fanatic says:

    Harrold, truly one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the silver screen (see also: INTO THE NIGHT and RAW DEAL), is married to Lawrence O’Donnell, of all people.

  28. LYT says:

    Kathryn Harrold is not married to O’Donnell any more. And she’s retired from acting. Still looks great.

    She and my dad are from the same small town in Virginia so we all keep in touch every now and then.

    Seems to me obvious why DBAOTD is rated R – two scenes are pretty bloody. The opening prologue (which is totally unnecessary to the movie IMO) and the part where the critters slash up that one character with a razor/scissors (who I won’t name lest it be considered spoilerish.

  29. Joe Leydon says:

    Film Fanatic: Another reason to be jealous of the guy. Damn. BTW: Remember a while back when we talking about the casual approach to nudity taken by many actresses in the 70s and 80s? Anyone recall Mrs. O’Donnell’s matter-of-fact nude scene in Modern Romance? To borrow LexG’s line: Bow!

    http://www.mrskin.com/kathryn-harrold-nude-c661.html?_mska_rlst=1

  30. Joe Leydon says:

    LYT: You means she’s available? LOL.

  31. Colin says:

    Harrold had a fun role opposite Schwarzenegger in the otherwise forgettable “Raw Deal.”

    “The only way you’ll ever end up lying next to me, Max, is if we’re run down by the same car. “

  32. film fanatic says:

    FORGETTABLE?!?!?!?

    “Raw Deal” is a classic.

    “YOU SHOULD NOT DRINK AND BAKE!”

  33. LYT says:

    Raw Deal has one of my favorite Ahnuld lines, particularly nowadays:

    “You know what I love about bedrooms? DERE ISS NEAHLY ALWAYS A BED IN DEHHHHHH!”

  34. Colin says:

    film fanatic, maybe I’ll give it another shot. It’s the only one of Arnie’s action movies from Conan through Eraser that I’ve only seen once. All I really remember from it are the give-and-take between Schwarzenegger and Harrold and Robert Davi cementing his legacy as one of the triptych of classic 1980s bad guys, with the others being the two Williams: Zabka and Atherton.

  35. Philip Lovecraft says:

    I saw both “Colombiana” and “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” today (hiding out from the extra intense L.A. heat). “Colombiana” wasn’t nearly as unhinged (if at all) as I hoped, but I love Zoe Saldana and the movie had more good than bad. Still, it was more ordinary than not with a few nifty moments (“One drop of blood…”), but, I enjoyed it.

    I’ve never seen the “Don’t Be Afraid…” TV movie, but, to its credit, the remake feels like one of those ’70s ABC Movie of the Week presentations I watched all the time. It’s genuinely creepy, but in an old school Halloween “Boo!” style (which might explain the low Cinemascore rating). I’m a big Guillermo Del Toro fan and, though he didn’t direct this, it has his fingerprints all over it. I dug it the most.

  36. movieman says:

    Wow.
    Very cool to see so many “Modern Romance” fans out there.
    Maybe one of the reasons the film struck such a deep chord with me 30 (!!!!) years ago was that it so closely mirrored a dead-end relationship I was in at the time. I remember quoting lines to my then-significant other (who, conveniently, hadn’t seen the film). The “no-win/Vietnam” morsel Yancy referenced was just one of them, lol.
    Of course, Brooks’ movies are filled with eminently quotable lines. Remember Garry Marshall’s casino boss explaining to Brooks in “Lost in America” (which ranked #2 on my list of the best of the ’80s) that he wasn’t “Sant-ie Claus”?

  37. Philip Lovecraft says:

    “Roundstick.”

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin